Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 24, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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The new Xbox app in Windows 10.

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

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

Today’s Free Downloads:

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

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

 

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

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

Features:

Disk Space Utilization Analysis

Classification and Categorization

Duplicate Files Finder and Cleaner

High-Speed File Synchronization

Real-Time Disk Change Monitor

File Copy and Data Migration

File Delete and Data Wiping

Rule-Based File Organizing

Rule-Based File Search

Command Line Utility

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Snowden, at full length:

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 20, 2015

How to clean Superfish and other crap off your PC;  Restore a Windows 8 or Windows 7 image backup to an unbootable PC;  iOS 8 is still riddled with show-stopping bugs;  How to transport your files to Google Drive;  YouTube is launching an Android app for children;  Clean up your Windows right-click menu with CCleaner;  I gave away my tablets and don’t at all miss them;  Microsoft OneNote for beginners: Everything you need to know;  Android malware hijacks power button, empties wallet while you sleep;  Hackers still in the State Department’s network, three months after the breach;  No one is too small to hack;  YouTube to unveil paid subscription model in next few months;  Two good apps for desktop publishing and one to avoid.

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THE GREAT SIM HEIST – How spies stole the keys to the encryption castle – American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Leading privacy advocates and security experts say that the theft of encryption keys from major wireless network providers is tantamount to a thief obtaining the master ring of a building superintendent who holds the keys to every apartment. “Once you have the keys, decrypting traffic is trivial,” says Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The news of this key theft will send a shock wave through the security community.”

Beat it, bloatware: How to clean Superfish and other crap off your PC – Preloaded software bogs down your hard drive, your start menu, and worse. We’re looking at you, Superfish. Clean it out with these handy tools and tricks.

You Can’t Remember Good Passwords, So You Need a Password Manager – Just what makes a good password? Well, it can’t contain any names, numbers, or words that someone else could figure out from what’s generally known about you. Your dog’s name, your school mascot, your firstborn’s birthday—those are all no good. It certainly can’t be a single, simple word or number-run like password or 123456. Best would be a random string of characters like 8TMatPL#HAo/#ZE$, but nobody can remember one password like that, let alone one for every secure website. So what can you do?

Five months on and iOS 8 is still riddled with show-stopping bugs – Five months on from the release of iOS 8, and following six rounds of bugfixes, Apple’s flagship mobile platform that powers almost three out of four iPhone and iPads is still riddled with bugs. I’m just going to come out and say it – this is a mess. If we were talking about cosmetic stuff like a badly laid out user interface or poor selection of wallpapers then I could overlook the issues, but they aren’t. These are bugs relating to core systems such as Wi-Fi, cellular connectivity, Bluetooth, and stability and performance. These are show-stopping bugs.

How to transport your files to Google Drive – Need to get somewhere quickly in the year 2265? Star Trek makes it look easy: step onto a platform, wait for someone to press a few buttons, and a transporter beams you to a location nearby. In 2015, Google Drive moves files to Google’s system almost as fast. Select a file (or folder) on your desktop and drag it into a browser window opened to Google Drive. Wait a bit as Google beams the information from your system to theirs. However, if you want to move all of your files from local storage to Google Drive, you need to plan the journey.

Restore a Windows 8 or Windows 7 image backup to an unbootable PC – An image backup can restore a hopelessly messed up Windows installation. But how do you restore a backup when you can’t boot Windows?

Bevy lets you create a private network for sharing pics, videos – Your family is probably spread out over a city, or state — possibly even a country, or continents. Sharing pics is easy via mediums like Facebook, but those avenues don’t lend themselves to private sharing in a straightforward way. There might even be some who aren’t comfortable uploading pics to a source they don’t own and control, which is where Bevy comes into play. Via an app and dedicated storage container, you and your family (or friends, or colleagues) can share pictures privately.

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Clean up your Windows right-click menu with CCleaner – CCleaner released a recent update that added a feature that allows you to clean out random application shortcuts from the right-click menu. This is useful for those apps that either didn’t give you a choice in the matter, or those that used some sneakiness to make the option go unnoticed. Additionally, it’s much better (and likely safer) than manually digging through the registry.

Sony’s latest snake oil: Pricey ‘Premium Sound’ Micro SDXC cards – Need the perfect expandable storage solution for your $1,200 Walkman? Sony might have a bridge to sell you. The company is now selling a 64 GB Micro SDXC card “for Premium Sound” in Japan. At $160, it’s four or five times more expensive than a typical 64 GB card, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, it’s supposed to produce “less electrical noise.”

Microsoft will give you 100 GB of OneDrive storage if you have a Dropbox account – Microsoft is going after Dropbox with a new promotion that will add 100GB of storage to your OneDrive account if you currently have a Dropbox account. Verification is required.

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I gave away my tablets and don’t at all miss them – Tablets were the new big thing, and the idea of owning one was exciting. Still, I didn’t see a use for them at the time, and so I put off buying one for a while, instead using those extra funds for an extra nice smartphone. Months rolled by and I’d nearly impulse buy a tablet at one point or another, but always held back. What would I do with it? It’d be easier to watch movies while lying around, I reasoned. And I could use it to take notes during class. It’d be lighter than my then-laptop. There was an app for everything! I talked myself into it. Fast-forward a few years. I’ve given away most of my tablets, and I don’t miss them a bit.

YouTube is launching an Android app for children – YouTube will release a new app designed for kids on Monday, the Google-owned video service has confirmed to The Verge. The app — called YouTube Kids — will reportedly offer original episodes of TV shows aimed at youngsters, in addition to videos from child-centric channels on YouTube, and will let parents set timers to stop their spawn from watching too long. YouTube Kids will reportedly be distinct from YouTube’s regular app, and at first, will only be available on Android smartphones and tablets.

Two good apps for desktop publishing and one to avoid – Yes, you can create professional-looking brochures, flyers, and more using a mobile app on a tablet (or a phone, if you’re masochistic and patient). But choose carefully–we found a couple of good ones to try.

Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter now available in 25 new markets, more coming soon – The Wireless Display Adapter first went on sale in the US in October for $59.95 (excluding taxes) and today, Microsoft announced that it is now on sale in 25 new markets. The company said that it has “expanded sales of the device to most countries in Europe, as well as South Africa.” Microsoft also says that it will launch the adapter in even more countries next month, including Australia, and various markets across Asia. You can find out more about the Wireless Display Adapter in our detailed hands-on with the device.

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Microsoft OneNote for beginners: Everything you need to know – Microsoft’s purple paper eater may just help restore your sanity when you’re fighting digital clutter.

Security:

Android malware hijacks power button, empties wallet while you sleep – Security biz AVG has spotted an outbreak of a new kind of Android malware that will come alive even when the phone is supposedly switched off. The software nasty is able to do this by hijacking the mobe’s power-off sequence. “After pressing the power button, you will see the real shutdown animation, and the phone appears off. Although the screen is black, it is still on,” said the firm’s mobile security team in an advisory. “While the phone is in this state, the malware can make outgoing calls, take pictures and perform many other tasks without notifying the user.”

Lenovo PCs ship with man-in-the-middle adware that breaks HTTPS connections – The critical threat is present on Lenovo PCs that have adware from a company called Superfish installed. As unsavory as many people find software that injects ads into Web pages, there’s something much more nefarious about the Superfish package. It installs a self-signed root HTTPS certificate that can intercept encrypted traffic for every website a user visits. When a user visits an HTTPS site, the site certificate is signed and controlled by Superfish and falsely represents itself as the official website certificate. Even worse, the private encryption key accompanying the Superfish-signed Transport Layer Security certificate appears to be the same for every Lenovo machine. Attackers may be able to use the key to certify imposter HTTPS websites that masquerade as Bank of America, Google, or any other secure destination on the Internet. Under such a scenario, PCs that have the Superfish root certificate installed will fail to flag the sites as forgeries—a failure that completely undermines the reason HTTPS protections exist in the first place.

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The Superfish certificate has been cracked, exposing Lenovo users to attack – Lenovo’s Superfish bug just went from bad to worse, as researchers have turned up an easy way to take advantage of the security flaws opened up by the pre-installed software. The bug has come under fire for breaking fundamental web security protocols, routing all encryption through a single password-protected certificate authority owned by a third-party adware company that makes Superfish. Anyone with the password that unlocks that certificate authority would be able to completely bypass the computer’s web encryption. The cracked certificate exposes Lenovo users to man-in-the-middle attacks, similar to those opened up by Heartbleed.

The safest way to escape from Superfish is to wipe your PC yourself. Here’s how – If you have an affected Lenovo PC, we’ve outlined the multi-step process for removing the software and the root certificate here. If you want to be sure that everything is completely removed (and if you’re willing to do the work), the more comprehensive solution is to completely reinstall Windows yourself. It’s not for everyone, but there are benefits to doing it this way—you get a totally clean PC that you’re in full control over. Most OEMs don’t include vanilla Windows install media with their systems anymore. They usually opt to include a restore partition, and that restore image usually has all the same crapware in it that shipped with the PC in the first place. We’ll walk you through the basics of getting install media, installing Windows, and creating a new clean recovery image.

Hackers still in the State Department’s network, three months after the breach – The US State Department, the NSA, and the FBI have had no luck in removing or blocking hackers from the State Department’s network in the three months since the breach was first reported.

No one is too small to hack – Smaller companies shouldn’t be complacent in the thought that cyberattackers have bigger game in their sights.

Australia: Three-strike piracy code draft targets residential internet users – Film studios and ISPs have released a new draft code that is aimed at curbing the number of Australians who illicitly download TV shows, films, and music online.

Company News:

YouTube to unveil paid subscription model in next few months – Google has been striving to wean YouTube from its dependence on ad revenues for some time now. The world’s largest streaming site, which has been offering paid channel subscriptions since 2013 and an ad-free, paid music experience called Music Key (currently in invitation-only beta) since November, looks set to take things a step further.

Apple Is Aiming to Produce Its Own Electric Car by 2020 – Apple wants to start producing its own cars, Bloomberg reports, citing unnamed sources privy to the company’s plans, who say the tech giant is pressuring its teams to work towards the production of an electric vehicle within the next five years. Meanwhile, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, whose company is attempting to release its own affordable electric car by 2017 and serves as Apple’s main competitor in the automotive sphere, told Bloomberg this month that Apple is offering his workers $250,000 signing bonuses and a 60 percent salary increase to jump ship.

Apple sued for poaching auto engineers and battery experts – Apple is being sued by A123 for poaching some of its most important engineers, which seemingly violates their non-compete clause. The engineers are helping Apple build a large battery division.

Ryanair, Vodafone partner for paperless cockpits, in-flight POS – Ryanair has a no-frills approach to air travel. Founded in 1985, Ryanair’s concept is getting you from point A to point B, quickly and efficiently. Part of their strategy involves a digital footprint that they rely heavily on, with travelers often needing to check-in online before heading to the airport. In a deal with Vodafone, their digital identity is growing, with in-flight digital point-of-sale terminals and a paperless cockpit. It’ll be iPads galore in the air for Ryanair.

Games and Entertainment:

Jolly Jam: Angry Birds maker makes its own Candy Crush – Rovio is about to try its luck with a Candy Crush-LIKE game, I suppose we should say. Not like it’s the same game – and not like there isn’t a precedent for creating games like this, like Bejeweled turning into a game about candy, or anything like that. And forbid it that there ever be a game like Bejeweled that takes what Dr. Mario was – or what Tetris was – and evolves it into something entirely new, with a smidgen of the old game in its bones.

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Finally! Xbox One, meet Screenshots – It is almost mind boggling that such a basic need, like taking a screenshot to boast about your latest in-game triumph, would take so long to implement. But they say that good things come to those who wait, and those who wait need to wait just a little bit longer. Screenshot capability is finally coming to the Xbox One console when the latest system update rolls to everyone in March. Fortunately, that’s not the only reason to be excited about this update.

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Hulu captures exclusive streaming rights to every season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – Hulu has scored a point in the ongoing battle between TV and movie streaming services — the company has secured the exclusive rights to stream CSI: Crime Scene Investigation through its Hulu Plus subscription service. This is the first time the long-running CBS show has made its way to streaming video-on-demand services, and subscribers will be able to stream every episode of the show from April.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Fantastic Adobe video spotlights 25 years of Photoshop artistry – To celebrate Photoshop’s 25th anniversary, Adobe releases a video featuring tons of creations by artists worldwide. The video, of course, was made entirely in Photoshop.

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Internet to be classified as a public utility if UK Parliament has its way – Many people around the world feel like internet is as important as water or electricity making it feel like a utility to many. Lawmakers in the US want to classify internet as a utility with backlash from many groups who fear that putting the government in more control of internet access would ruin net neutrality. In the UK, the upper house of parliament known as the House of Lords is also clamoring for internet access to be reclassified as a public utility.

Worldwide flights visualization shows how busy our skies really are – Anyone who’s been on a flight in the past few years knows that, despite rising fuel costs and ongoing economic turmoil, people are traveling a lot and our airports keep on getting busier. But better than just looking at the data is visualizing it, and that’s exactly what software engineer Callum Prentice has done using WebGL in a web browser. You can see the results by visiting his Flight Stream page, but be warned if you have a slower computer it may take a while to load, or fail to. You also need a browser that support WebGL, which most modern browsers do.

Apple boss Tim Cook wants you to read this book – Congressman John Lewis shared the stage with Martin Luther King when he uttered his ever reverberating “Have a dream” speech; yesterday, he shared a stage with Apple CEO, Tim Cook. Congressman Lewis was visiting Apple as he publicizes his book(s), March and March 2. March was the first graphic novel ever to receive a Robert F Kennedy Book Award. He was also at Apple to mark Black History Month. “It is a very unique way to present what is probably the most important story of my entire lifetime,” Tim Cook said when introducing Congressman Lewis at Apple HQ. “My hope is that everyone reads this and I would love to see the day that it is required reading in every school.” The books depict a sequence of events that began fifty years ago with Bloody Sunday and the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, which seems particularly poignant in light of the “Hands up, don’t shoot” protests.

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Time Warner Cable calls customer “C**t” after she reports cable box problem – Time Warner Cable (TWC) isn’t yet a part of Comcast, but it’s taking after its potential parent company in one very unfortunate way. Comcast customers have complained about their billing account names being changed to insults like “asshole,” “whore,” “dummy,” and “super bitch.” Now, the same thing has happened to a Time Warner Cable customer named Esperanza Martinez. Martinez, of Orange County, California, provided Ars a copy of this letter she just got from Time Warner Cable:

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After being contacted by Ars, Time Warner Cable admitted that one of its representatives changed Martinez’s first name to “Cunt” in the cable company’s computer system.

Something to think about:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

–     H.L. Mencken

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 19, 2015

Google pushes back on expansion of FBI hacking powers;  Thousands Join Legal Fight Against UK Surveillance — And You Can, Too;  Give your notebook a storage upgrade;  Best Antivirus Products Honored by AV-Test Institute;  10 best practices for voice-based applications;  5 free tools for editing images on a Chromebook;  The World’s 10 Best Tablets Are;  Top Adult Site RedTube Compromised, Redirects to Malware;  Internet of Things security check; Lenovo pre-installs adware on its systems, which could also steal your private data;  Reddit giving 10% of 2014 ad revenue to charity;  Companies Fighting US Government Barred From Naming Themselves, Because Security;  Xbox One March preview update;  This Museum Is Building a Video Game Hall of Fame;  Andy the Android emulator (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google pushes back on expansion of FBI hacking powers – As US law enforcement agencies look for more power over the digital realm, they’re facing increasing pushback from tech companies, particularly Google’s public policy arm. With a recent filing, Google pushed back against an obscure committee measure that would seek to give the FBI increased warrant power to seek out servers involved in illegal activity. The measure didn’t attract much attention when it was introduced to the Department of Justice last year, but today Google put it on the front page of the company’s public policy blog, calling out the measure as “a small rule change that could give the US government sweeping new warrant power.”

The World’s 10 Best Tablets Are – Looking for something to bridge the gap between laptop and smartphone? With Android, Apple, and Windows options, these ten top-rated tablets fit the bill. We tried them all, so you don’t have to. Here are our analysts’ picks of the world’s 10 best tablets.

Best Antivirus Products Honored by AV-Test Institute – The dedicated researchers at AV-Test Institute run constant tests on several dozen popular antivirus products under several different versions of Windows. Six times each year, they summarize their findings by rating and reporting on those products. This week marks AV-Test’s 2014 awards for the products that rated best in several different criteria.

Give your notebook a storage upgrade – Processors and RAM are fixed entities in a PC, but right from day one data is incessantly eating away at your storage space. And it’s not just your data (which you can manage) but endless gigabytes of temp files and cached junk.

10 best practices for voice-based applications – From automated phone systems to call center analytics to voice recognition features, the scope and importance of voice-based apps in the enterprise continues to grow.

How to sideload apps onto Amazon’s Fire TV – Installing apps from the Google Play Store can greatly expand your streaming-video catalog. We’ll show you the tricks to make it work.

iFixit now has an Android DIY repair portal – When new devices come out, we often look to iFixit for the lowdown on what’s under the hood. We also look to them for guidance on best practices for fixing things, or at least how much we can expect to spend for someone else to do it. For the DIY repair crowd, though, the site is an invaluable tool, and just became a lot more useful. Now, the iFixit crew has an Android portal, so you can repair your cracked Android everything.

5 free tools for editing images on a Chromebook – The native image editor built into Chromebooks is hidden and weak, but Chrome OS doesn’t support the powerful desktop image editing software available for Windows. Don’t fear! These free tools can help you tweak your pictures.

New Talking Barbie Can Have 2-Way Conversations With Kids – Imaginary conversations with dolls are so 20th century. A new Internet-connected Barbie arriving on store shelves this fall will let kids have two-way conversations with the doll. The necklace on the doll will feature both the microphone and the speaker that help enable the conversations. Hello Barbie will retail for $74.99 when it launches, likely in time for the holiday season. The doll requires a Wi-Fi connection to talk, though kids can of course continue to use Barbie the old-fashioned way when the Internet’s down.

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Hello Barbie is displayed at the Mattel showroom at the North American International Toy Fair in New York City on Feb. 14, 2015.

Cost for continued Windows XP support said to double this year – As it stands, commercial users of Windows XP pay around $200 per PC annually to see software support for the now-retired OS, but in two months the cost of support is expected to jump to $400 per PC annually, with a possible cap of $500,000 for an entire business should the number of supported PCs exceed the half-million dollar mark. As of this moment, the annual cap sits at $250,000. These updates tend to be security-related and are only meant as a temporary solution since Microsoft has made it clear that the support for XP will only exist for three years following the retirement of the OS.

Gmail mass email tips: Avoid the spammy look with the personalized touch – Make it look special (even if it was sent to 75 other people). Create your own mail merge in minutes, with some help from Google Sheets and a free script.

Security:

Top Adult Site RedTube Compromised, Redirects to Malware – This time around, the source of the problem is not malvertising, but rather a malicious iframe placed directly in the source code of redtube[dot]com, a pornographic site that boasts over 300 million visits a month. The attack doesn’t come from a malicious advertisement being loaded on the webpage, like was the case with xHamster, but rather the source code of RedTubes main page was modified to include a hidden piece of redirection code. The code is executed inside of an iFrame, which is basically like a browser window inside of your browser window that can point to any website the attacker wants. In this case the iFrame is set to be completely invisible to the user and navigates to the following malicious URLs:

Internet of Things security check: How 3 smart devices can be dumb about the risks – Internet of Things security is no longer a foggy future issue, as more and more such devices enter the market—and our lives. From self-parking cars to home automation systems to wearable smart devices, analysts currently estimate that some 50 billion to 200 billion devices could be connected to the Internet in 2020. Google CEO Eric Schmidt told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, “there will be so many sensors, so many devices, that you won’t even sense it, it will be all around you,” he said. “It will be part of your presence all the time.” That’s hardly comforting when you consider how many of these smart devices still seem to be pretty dumb about security.

Mall security guards misuse CCTV to allegedly stalk women & share ‘sleaze file’ photos – Security guards in Australia’s Westfield Sydney shopping center are accused of stalking women via the mall’s CCTV before tagging, saving and sharing secret ‘sleaze file’ photos. An unidentified SecureCorp security guard told A Current Affair that the “misuse of security cameras particularly against women has been happening for years and is still happening.” He claims he was fired for blowing the whistle on behavior such as “Zooming in if girls were sitting down with short skirts, they’d zoom in between their legs.” He added, “A lot of it was CCTV footage; they would either burn it to a disk or put it on USB and take it home for their personal use.”

Hoping for spy reforms? Jeb Bush, dangerously close to being the next US prez, backs the NSA – Former Florida governor, brother of former President George W Bush, son of former President George H W Bush, and Republican frontrunner for the 2016 US presidential election, Jeb Bush … has strongly defended the NSA’s mass surveillance of innocent people. Speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as part of his run for the White House, Bush made it clear that if he did become president he would retain the programs introduced under his brother’s administration. Fast forward to the 28-minute mark for the fun to begin in this vid, streamed live on Wednesday, of his talk:

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The NSA’s Undetectable Hard Drive Hack Was First Demonstrated a Year Ago – A group of ordinary security researchers warned this was possible, and in fact installed hard drive backdoors themselves, nearly a year ago. The paper ” Implementation and Implications of a Stealth Hard-Drive Backdoor,” published in March 2014 by a team of eight researchers from Eurecom in France, IBM Research in Zurich, and UCSD and Northeastern University in the US, reads almost exactly like security firm Kaspersky’s expose on the NSA malware. The full paper is absolutely worth your read if you’ve been fascinated by Kaspersky’s revelations.

Lenovo pre-installs adware on its systems, which could also steal your private data – The adware, named Superfish, is reportedly installed on devices out of the box and it’s a bit more difficult to get rid of it than you might expect. The software injects ads when users browse the web, with Google searches being a primary target. A number of antivirus programs report Superfish as adware and recommend uninstalling it. While that sounds pretty horrible it gets much worse. There are some reports showing that Superfish doesn’t just inject ads. It also installs its own security certificate which allows it to decode encrypted data such as the one sent between you and your bank. This could effectively allow the software to perform a man-in-the-middle attack on your private data. Internet Explorer and Chrome could be affected by this, while Firefox is currently safe thanks to its independent certificate repository.

Company News:

Sony throwing in the towel on phones and TVs – Sony’s appetite for struggling through the cutthroat smartphone and TV segments may have finally faded, with the company’s chief exec saying he will no longer chase sales growth, and is open to spinning-off each. The admission of near-defeat comes as CEO Kazuo Hirai outlined his new focus for the next three years, concentrating on PlayStation and camera sensor development rather than segments like phones which have been attacked at either end of the market, both by cheap rivals from Asia, and from more high-end competition from Apple and Samsung.

Samsung buys LoopPay in warning shot to Apple – In an effort to take on Apple Pay head on, Samsung announced Wednesday that it has acquired LoopPay, a Boston-based startup, for an undisclosed sum. Various startups have been jockeying for position in the mobile payments arena, especially now that magnetic stripe cards have become easy targets for massive fraud in the United States and major credit card issuers have agreed to begin issuing European-style chip-and-PIN-based cards by October 2015.

Pinterest said to be pursuing new funding for $11B valuation – Pinterest, which lets people “pin” photos, websites, products and other items on virtual boards for others to see, is in talks to raise $500 million in a funding round that would value the startup at $11 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing unidentified sources described as familiar with the matter. The new cash would bring the company’s total funding raised to date to more than $1.2 billion.

Reddit giving 10% of 2014 ad revenue to charity – When a company reports their earnings, we tend to marvel at the amount they brought in (or didn’t). From there, not much seems to happen, at least in view of the public. Reddit recently announced they pulled in $8.3 million in ad revenue during 2014. That’s interesting enough news, but what they’re doing with it is even more interesting. After their big win, Reddit is paying it forward, and will donate 10% of their ad income to charity. Best of all, you can help decide where the cash goes.

Google Faces App Bundling Antitrust Complaint in Russia – Russian search giant Yandex is suing Google for what it says is anti-competitive practices. The country’s largest search provider accused Google of actively preventing local smartphone vendors from pre-loading competing services onto Android devices. According to the lawsuit, Yandex believes user-centric services—search, maps, email, etc.—should be unbundled from the OS, leveling the playing field and allowing local developers to expand their audiences.

More change for Mozilla as top Firefox exec departs – Johnathan Nightingale, Mozilla’s vice president of Firefox, is leaving. Firefox is stronger now after a tough 2014, he says, but his departure means more unsettled times for the browser maker.

Uber sees $1 billion Series E venture funding surge – Uber has increased its latest Series E funding round amount by $1 billion after receiving increased interest from investors, with the round reaching a total capacity of $2.8 billion.

Facebook says it’s developing virtual reality apps – Less than a year after Facebook closed its acquisition of Oculus VR, maker of the innovative wrap-around Oculus Rift headset and a pioneer in the virtual-reality video game realm, Facebook revealed Tuesday it’s developing versions of its apps for use in a virtual reality environment.

Games and Entertainment:

This pirated movie brought to you by Pampers – Whether they know it or not, major advertisers are subsidizing online movie piracy, accelerating a trend in which illicit video streaming is eclipsing illegal P2P file sharing and downloading of copyrighted material. That’s according to an upcoming study commissioned by Digital Citizens Alliance, a nonprofit organization with the stated goal of making the Internet a safer place. The study is a follow-up to a February 2014 report that pegged the collective annual revenue of the nearly 600 illegal movie sharing sites it sampled at $227 million.

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Xbox One March preview update brings long-awaited screenshot feature – Microsoft has released its Xbox One March system update to people enrolled in the preview program, finally bringing the the long-awaited screenshot feature to the console. In addition to the screenshot feature, a number of smaller improvements have also been released, such as suggested friends and the ability to block spam accounts, a problem that has recently plagued Xbox Live. Microsoft provided the following rundown of the update:

Get Ready to Binge Watch: Amazon OKs More Original Series – The Web giant on Wednesday announced it has greenlit five more original shows, including The Man in the High Castle, which is based on the Philip K. Dick alternative history novel and was a hit during the recent pilot season. Amazon has also ordered up full seasons of the hour-long dark comedy drama Mad Dogs, which “follows the reunion of a group of underachieving forty-something friends” as well as its first-ever docu-series The New Yorker Presents, which brings the pages of the magazine to life.

Comcast’s TV Everywhere streaming lineup doubles as cord-cutting options skyrocket – In a press release, the cable giant says it has doubled its number of live, streaming channels to more than 70 in just over a year, including recent additions like AMC, BBC America, and Showtime. That’s in addition to more than 21,000 on-demand videos for mobile devices and 466,000 videos through the browser.

This Museum Is Building a Video Game Hall of Fame – The Strong museum has collected more than 55,000 video games and related artifacts from the history of gaming — but only a few titles will be inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame, which the museum officially launched on Tuesday. “Electronic games have changed how people play, learn and connect with each other, including across boundaries of culture and geography,” said G. Rollie Adams, president and chief executive of The Strong museum in Rochester.

Off Topic (Sort of):

These Are the Most Gorgeous Google Street Views Imaginable – Google Street View just added a new virtual destination: some of the most stunning landscapes in Greenland, from fjords to viking ruins. “Thanks to our partners Visit Greenland and Asiaq, you can now explore immersive 360-degree imagery of the world’s largest island, which is sparsely populated yet chock full of glorious natural wonders and historical sites,” Google wrote on its blog Wednesday. “Let us take you on a tour of fjords, waterfront vistas, Norse ruins and more.”

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This 43-Second Short May Be the First Sci-Fi Film – There’s a case to be made that the first science fiction ever filmed wasn’t about spaceships, aliens, or trips to the moon. Our rich history of cinematic sci-fi may have begun instead with a 43-second, single-reel film about a box that turns pigs into pork products. It’s true: Some of the earliest sci-fi ever filmed was about drones and factory farming.

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Dash cam shows police striking suspect until cop turns off recording – Among a host of fresh concerns, however, is that the police might turn off the camera gear when footage is needed most. The Oakland Police Department in California, for example, has disciplined police officers 24 times for disabling or failing to activate body-worn cameras. That’s similar to what happened in the case of a St. Louis man arrested for marijuana possession, resisting arrest, and unlawful use of a weapon. Dash cam video, released Monday, shows a suspect, Cortez Bufford, being pulled from the vehicle he was driving before being kicked and shocked with a taser. Charges against Bufford were dropped after the camera being turned off “diminished the evidentiary merits of the case,” police said.

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Pussy Riot release harrowing music video tribute for Eric Garner – The song is being released with an equally haunting music video on YouTube. It shows two members of the band, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, being buried alive while wearing Russian riot police uniforms. “This song is for Eric and for all those from Russia to America and around the globe who suffer from state terror — killed, choked, perished because of war and state sponsored violence of all kinds — for political prisoners and those on the streets fighting for change,” the video’s YouTube description reads. “We stand in solidarity.”

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Something to think about:

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

–      F. Scott Fitzgerald

Today’s Free Downloads:

Andy the Android emulator – Andy breaks down the barrier between desktop and mobile computing, while keeping a user up to date with the latest Android OS feature upgrades. It also provides users with unlimited storage capacity, PC and Mac compatibility, and the freedom to play the most popular mobile games on a desktop, Yes you can now run Android on windows.

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With phone as a joystick, you will never have to sacrifice the multi-touch or gyro elements of gaming, and thanks to seamless connection between desktop and mobile, you can receive a SnapChat phone picture on the street and see it on your desktop at home or even a whatsapp message.

Provides seamless sync between desktop and mobile devices

Connects Win/Mac with Android apps for launching, push notifications and storage

Enables app download from any desktop browser direct to Andy OS

Ensures most up to date Android OS at all times

Brings your favorite communication and entertainment mobile apps to the desktop

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ISO Workshop 5.8 – Optical disc images are files storing complete copies of various media, including CD, DVD and Blu-Ray discs. They are used for backing up data from optical discs and creating exact disc copies for further replication. The main advantage of disc images is that they are essentially exact sector-by-sector copies of original discs preserving both their content and structure. If you have a disc image in any format, you can easily recreate the original disc by burning the image to a blank CD, DVD or BD disc. And although this task may initially seem to be somewhat hard, proper software will make it a breeze – software like ISO Workshop!

Features:

Extract files and folders from disc image

Copy disc to disc image (including Audio CD)

Convert disc image to ISO or BIN format

Burn ISO or CUE/BIN image to disc

Supports common formats (ISO, CUE, BIN, NRG, MDF, CDI etc.)

Supports CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD+R DL, BD-R/RE

Supports verification of written files

Free for personal and commercial use

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Monkey’s Audio 4.14 – Monkey’s Audio is a fast and easy way to compress digital music. Unlike traditional methods such as mp3, ogg, or wma that permanently discard quality to save space, Monkey’s Audio only makes perfect, bit-for-bit copies of your music. That means it always sounds perfect – exactly the same as the original.

Even though the sound is perfect, it still saves a lot of space (think of it as a beefed-up Winzip™ your music). The other great thing is that you can always decompress your Monkey’s Audio files back to the exact, original files. That way, you’ll never have to recopy your CD collection to switch formats, and you’ll always be able to perfectly recreate the original music CD.

Features:

Efficient (fast and great compression) — Monkey’s Audio is highly optimized and highly efficient

Perfect sound — absolutely no quality loss, meaning it sounds perfect and decompresses perfect (it’s lossless!)

Media Center™, Foobar™, WMP™, Winamp™, and more support — supported by most popular players and rippers

Easy — the Windows environment interface is both powerful and easy to use

Free — Monkey’s Audio is completely free!

Error detection — Monkey’s Audio incorporates redundant CRC’s to ensure proper decompression of data (errors never go unnoticed)

Tagging support — Monkey’s Audio uses its own extremely flexible APE Tags so you can easily manage and catalogue your Monkey’s Audio collection

External coder support — you can use Monkey’s Audio as a front-end for all of your encoding needs

Freely available source code, simple SDK and non-restrictive licensing — other developers can easily use Monkey’s Audio in their own programs, and there are no restrictive licensing agreements

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Thousands Join Legal Fight Against UK Surveillance — And You Can, Too – Thousands of people are signing up to join an unprecedented legal campaign against the United Kingdom’s leading electronic surveillance agency.

On Monday, London-based human rights group Privacy International launched an initiative enabling anyone across the world to challenge covert spying operations involving Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the National Security Agency’s British counterpart.

The campaign was made possible following a historic court ruling earlier this month that deemed intelligence sharing between GCHQ and the NSA to have been unlawful because of the extreme secrecy shrouding it.

Consequently, members of the public now have a rare opportunity to take part in a lawsuit against the spying in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special British court that handles complaints about surveillance operations conducted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Privacy International is allowing anyone who wants to participate to submit their name, email address and phone number through a page on its website. The group plans to use the details to lodge a case with GCHQ and the court that will seek to discover whether each participant’s emails or phone calls have been covertly obtained by the agency in violation of the privacy and freedom of expression provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. If it is established that any of the communications have been unlawfully collected, the court could force GCHQ to delete them from its vast repositories of intercepted data.

By Tuesday evening, more than 10,000 people had already signed up to the campaign, a spokesman for Privacy International told The Intercept.

Companies Fighting US Government Barred From Naming Themselves, Because Security – Two major companies—a telecom and an “internet company”—have asked the US government simply for the right to disclose how often the NSA, FBI, and other agencies ask them for user information. Who are these companies? Who knows! The federal government has said that it’s illegal for them to come forward and name themselves.

That’s the astounding claim alleged by the two companies Tuesday in the Northern District of California court. The companies filed what’s known as an amicus curiae brief in support of Twitter’s ongoing legal battle with the US government, in which the social media company is fighting for the right to be able to publish more granular data about government information requests on its users.

The requests, called National Security Letters (NSLs), are not approved by a judge and are issued by the FBI. NSLs ​have since been deemed unconstitutional, but that decision is being appealed. In the meantime, more NSLs continue to be issued. Last year, the US Department of Justice finally said that companies could disclose information about NSL requests, but only in a way that makes it nearly useless.

Australia: Stop monkeying around with our metadata laws, prime minister – There’s something rather endearing, sweet even, about watching Prime Minister Tony Abbott explain Australia’s “urgent” need for mandatory telecommunications data-retention laws.

Evidence continues to mount against the idea of capturing and storing this so-called “metadata” for two years — at least in the proposed law’s current form — and I’ll get to that. But Abbott just keeps banging away with the same old discredited spin. He’s like one of those wind-up toy monkeys clashing his cymbals. All noise, all repetition, no information, no clue.

There’s also something rather endearing, sweet even, about Abbott’s simplistic, binary world view.

“The cost of losing this data is an explosion in unsolved crime… If we want to combat crime, we need this legislation, and if we don’t get it, it will be a form of unilateral disarmament in the face of criminals, and the price of that is very, very high indeed,” Abbott told a press conference on Wednesday.

Yes, in the criminal-infested cartoon land of Abbott’s political mind, telecommunications data is the only tool in the investigative toolbox. With it, crime can be solved. Without it, the very fabric of society will dissolve under a tsunami of crooks.

Meet Babar, a New Malware Almost Certainly Created by France – The NSA, GCHQ, and their allies in the Five Eyes are not the only government agencies using malware for surveillance. French intelligence is almost certainly hacking its targets too—and now security researchers believe they have proof.

On Wednesday, the researchers will reveal new details about a powerful piece of malware known as “Babar,” which is capable of eavesdropping on online conversations held via Skype, MSN and Yahoo messenger, as well as logging keystrokes and monitoring which websites an infected user has visited.

Babar is “a fully blown espionage tool, built to excessively spy” on its victims, according to the research, and which Motherboard reviewed in advance. The researchers are publishing two separate but complementary reports that analyze samples of the malware, and all but confirm that France’s spying agency the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) was responsible for its creation.

France’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Russia Wants to Block Tor, But It Probably Can’t – The Russian government said last week it wants to ban Tor, a browser and network that anonymizes web traffic, but how likely is it that they will succeed at censoring a tool that is itself used to circumvent censorship?

Certain domains have been blocked in Russia since 2012, when a blacklist law went into effect, but the current legislation relies on individual internet service providers to block these sites. Many citizens easily bypass the barriers with tools like Tor and VPN, or virtual private network, services, which allow them to tunnel traffic through alternative IP addresses and appear as if they are located outside of Russia.

Vadim Ampelonskogo, the chief press officer for the country’s federal authority on telecommunications, released a st​atement describing Tor as, “den of criminals” and “ghouls, all gathered in one place.” He made it clear the government has the service in its sights, saying blocking it would be difficult but “technically possible.”

According to Jillian York, Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it is unlikely Russia would follow through on such a massive undertaking. While VPNs are fairly easy to block, Tor is a different game.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 18, 2015

Password security tips: share them safely with loved ones;  Five secure chat apps that don’t cost a dime;  7 gotta-know iOS and Android text-messaging tricks;  Microsoft replaces patch that killed PowerPoint;  Autodesk Pixlr for PC and Windows tablets free;  11 Antivirus Apps for the Mac;  The four best lock screens for your Android phone;  Facebook Blocks Native American Names;  Raspberry Pi Sales Pass 5 Million;  Ten Raspberry Pi 2 alternatives;  Ultimate Game Sale on Xbox;  The Best iPhone Games You Should Play This Week;  KeyScrambler (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Password security tips: When and how to share them safely with loved ones – We’re conditioned almost constantly to protect our passwords. Don’t write them down. Don’t store them in a Word doc on your desktop. Don’t share your password over the phone or by email. Don’t ever give your password to anyone under any circumstances. The gray area comes with whether to share your password with significant others. Any time you share a password or anything else online, you increase the risk that it might be exposed or compromised. Michelle Dennedy of Intel Security offered some tips to help you protect your device and personal information:

Five secure chat apps that don’t cost a dime – Sometimes you need to chat about a subject and you can’t chance the information getting into the wrong hands. Maybe you’re sending personal data or discussing sensitive company details. Regardless of why you need to ensure a secure conversation, the bigger question is “How do you go about it?” Let’s dive in and look at some of the best free apps for securely chatting with your friends, family, staff, and clients.

7 gotta-know iOS and Android text-messaging tricks – The standard Android and iOS messaging apps—you know, the app you use for trading all those text messages, photos and videos—can do much more than you might think. Not only can you forward any text messages you receive, you can also (depending on whether you’re using an iPhone or Android phone) find out when a given message was sent or received, shush an annoying group thread, or “lock” a message that’s particularly important. You can even swap in a whole new messaging app if you’re not satisfied with the “stock” one. Read on for seven texting tricks you need to know, starting with…

Five free OS X data encryption utilities – Here are five ways to secure the data on your Mac using both built-in tools and third-party utilities. All of these are robust tools that can thwart both casual snoopers and hardcore hackers. And on top of that, they won’t cost you a dime.

11 Antivirus Apps for the Mac – While the list of viruses and other malware targeted at OS X is short, Windows and even Linux malware pose a threat to your Mac, too. These nefarious programs may not always be able to run on your Mac, but they aren’t doing you any good by taking up space, either. Also, advanced malware can sometimes use your Mac as an infection vector for Windows or Linux computers, hitching a ride in an email or on a USB drive. To combat these sneaky malicious programs, some Mac antivirus apps scan for Windows and Linux malware to keep your computer tidy, and your friends safe.

A five-pack of beer apps to find great new brews – Calling all hop heads, lager hounds and ale wives: put down that pint (just for a moment) and pick up your phone to discover new beers and keep track of your favorites. If you are a beer lover always on the hunt for new and interesting ales and lagers, I have a five-pack of beer apps to share with you.

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Pintley

Autodesk Pixlr now available as free app for PC and Windows tablets – No longer will you be forced to muck around online or in Microsoft Paint to transform those images you took that need a little bit of touching up, as now Microsoft has worked with Autodesk to produce a Windows Store app version of Pixlr and made it available for PC and tablets via the Windows Store. The original AutoDesk Pixlr app is a free photo editing web app that was previously only available online and for mobile devices. The PC, laptop and tablet version offers a wide range of effects that you can use to create customized collages, as well as tools to adjust contrast, lighting, focus and blur.

The four best lock screens for your Android phone – If you’re getting bored with your phone’s lock screen, maybe it’s time to try another. This is Android after all, so you’re not locked in to what came with your device—there are a ton of options to put impressive images, better notification controls, and a steady stream of news and updates right in front of you. One word of advice: be sure you turn off system lock in your phone’s settings menu. Otherwise you may have to unlock your phone twice, as it will still show the default lock screen after you unlock your custom lockscreen.

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Get a calm and peaceful feeling when you glance at the CM Locker screen.

Microsoft replaces patch that killed PowerPoint – Microsoft has replaced a patch for PowerPoint 2013 after finding it caused problems with the presentation app on Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets. The affected patch, KB2920732 for PowerPoint 2013 for the Surface RT and Surface 2, was released as part of the February Patch Tuesday update for Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT.

Stop your flash drive from yelling about fake problems every time you plug it in – Windows is full of cryptic error messages, but few are more annoying than seeing a warning every time you plug in a USB drive. You know the one I’m talking about: “There’s a problem with this drive. Scan the drive now and fix it.” So you go through the motions, scan the stupid drive, fix it, and everything’s fine. Then the next time you connect it to your PC, there’s that darn message again. So how do you fix this problem for good? Here are a few tips.

Sony SmartEyeglass Developer Edition On Sale Now – Where Google failed, Sony hopes to succeed. Its SmartEyeglass Developer Edition eyewear is available now for pre-order in the U.K. and Germany. The SED-E1 transparent-lens headset will go on sale in eight more countries—Japan, the U.S., France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden—next month. Developers can access the official version of the SmartEyeglass SDK today.

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Chromecast coming to VLC, according to latest changelog – If a changelog on Github can be believed (and they typically can), VLC is about to get Chromecast support. That means the app will soon be able to stream your locally stored content to your HDMI port on your TV via Chromecast. While you can already fling locally stored content to Chromecast via apps like Plex, VLC takes it a step further by offering up nearly unlimited support for file types. The streaming app may also be returning to iOS, where the Chromecast functionality should also pop up.

PCPartPicker website overhauled to make building a PC easier than ever before – Good news if you’re looking to build a PC anytime soon: PCPartPicker just launched a fairly extensive site redesign that adds (among other things) price filtering and custom build guides. If you’ve never heard of it before, PCPartPicker lets you start plugging in components for your build (CPU, GPU, motherboard, etc.) and makes sure everything is compatible before you drop big bucks on hardware. It also has killer filtering options if you’re still in the planning stages of your build. Have a specific number of CPU cores in mind? You can sort by that. Want to buy the cheapest CPU possible? You can do that too (though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it). Want to know whether that GTX 980 will fit into the case you’re buying? PCPartPicker has you covered.

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Facebook Blocks Native American Names – Facebook is under fire again for denying users access based on their account names. Five months after the social network sparred with the drag queen community over its “real name” policy, Native Americans are fighting Facebook for the right to log in with their native names. The ongoing battle picked up steam in October, when users like Shane Creepingbear were suspended based on the assumption that they were using fake names.

Web standard promising faster page loads wins approval – HTTP 2.0 is the standard’s first new version in 16 years. In practice, the new standard will bring more privacy-protection encryption to the Web, too. HTTP, short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is one of the seminal standards of the Web. It governs how a Web browser communicates with a Web server to load a Web page. HTTP 2.0, the protocol’s first major revision since HTTP 1.1 in 1999, is designed to load Web pages faster, allowing consumers to read more pages, buy more things and perform more and faster Internet searches. In practice, HTTP 2.0 also brings another big change: encryption.

Windows 10 lets you schedule Windows Update restarts – In the Windows 10 Technical Preview, Windows Update still downloads and installs updates automatically. And if you have Windows Update set to “automatic,” it will work like it does in previous versions of Windows: it will wait until your computer is idling (this usually happens when you’re in the middle of a major, unsaved project and you’ve just stepped away from your desk for an impromptu meeting with your boss), and it will restart automatically. But if you’d rather not have this happen, you can now set up your PC to prompt you to schedule a specific restart time. Gone are the days of losing hours of work to a poorly-timed Windows Update! Here’s how to do it.

Security:

Did the NSA plant surveillance software on hard drives? – Security vendor Kaspersky outs a group capable of inserting spying software onto hard drives around the world, while Reuters fingers the NSA as the culprit.

WhatsApp spy tool lets anyone track when you’re online – WhatsSpy Public illustrates that fiddling with your privacy settings doesn’t stop people from tracking your status and any changes you’ve made to profile photos, status messages and settings.

Beware of fake Windows 10 “activators” – The considerable interest users have shown for testing Microsoft’s Windows 10 Technical Preview version has not passed unnoticed by cyber scammers and malware peddlers. Malwarebytes’ Chris Boyd warns about several different tactics used by these crooks in order to make users complete surveys or download potentially unwanted applications.
Several YouTube video pages have been spotted offering “activating” tools for “unlocking” the Technical Preview version in order to activate the “full” Windows 10 version. The same offer can be found on a number of dedicated websites such as this one (which is still active as I write this):

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Samsung’s spying smart TVs don’t encrypt voice recordings sent over the internet – new claim – Not only is your Samsung smart TV snooping on what you say, it sends recordings of your voice over the internet unencrypted – leaving it open to eavesdropping and mischief – security researchers say. Samsung insisted last week that its TV voice-control technology isn’t half as creepy as its terms and conditions suggested. Now findings by security consultancy Pen Test Partners will renew fears of smart gizmos riding roughshod over your privacy.

Microsoft targets Asia as global hub of cybercrime and malware – The software giant’s cybercrime fighting unit has opened its third Asian satellite center in Singapore, to keep an eye on malware that will target Southeast Asia’s emerging status as a financial hub.

Firefox to get a “walled garden” for browser extensions, Mozilla to be sole arbiter – Mozilla has announced that its Firefox browser is heading towards signed browser extensions only. Even if you publish your extensions “off market,” you’ll have to get Mozilla to sign them first.

Company News:

Snapchat reportedly could be valued as high as $19B – Snapchat is reportedly seeking a new round of funding that could value the company as high as $19 billion. “A person with knowledge of the matter” said that the company would be hoping to raise as much as $500 million, with executives “in advanced discussions” with fund managers over the new round of funding, according to Bloomberg, The funding could reportedly land Snapchat a valuation of between $16 billion and $19 billion, making it the one of the top three venture capitalist-backed startups, behind car service Uber and smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi.

Sony Eyes Healthy Profits By 2018 With New Focus On PlayStation And Entertainment – Sony announced its latest corporate reshuffle which will see it focus on its PlayStation and its entertainment businesses, as well as its CMOS image sensor unit, as it bids to return to healthy profit levels by 2018. The company has reported six net loses over the last seven years, but it said that this new three-year strategy is aimed at delivering a 500 billion yen ($4.2 billion) consolidated operating profit for its fiscal 2017. Sony recorded a $1.2 billion loss for its last full year of business (fiscal 2013) last March, and it is expected to post another loss — albeit a slimmer one — for FY2014.

Google launches Android One in the Philippines – Google will start selling its Android One handsets in the Philippines next month, marking the sixth nation it’s brought the low-priced devices to.

BlackBerry is suing Ryan Seacrest’s keyboard startup Typo again – Ryan Seacrest’s keyboard startup, Typo, changed the design of its heavily BlackBerry-inspired case after being sued last year, but it turns out that BlackBerry doesn’t think those changes make it any less of a rip off. BlackBerry is now suing Typo over the Typo 2, claiming that the case maker has once again copied its designs and patents. “The Typo2 Keyboard still blatantly copies BlackBerry’s iconic keyboard trade dress designs that have been embodied in numerous BlackBerry smartphones from the 2007 BlackBerry 8800 to the current Q10 and Classic models,” the complaint reads. It’s requesting that a preliminary injunction is issued to stop Typo from selling the new case.

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Raspberry Pi Sales Pass 5 Million – A round of applause for the U.K.-made Raspberry Pi microcomputer — which has just passed the 5 million sales mark, some three years after it was first launched with the over-modest goal of selling “a few thousand” Pi over its entire lifetime, as creator Eben Upton has said. How wrong can you be, and how good must that feel? Having a tasty price-point — of $35 for the Model B Pi, and just $25 for Model A — has kindled remarkable interest in Pi-powered homebrew computing. Everything from DIY computers to robotics projects are being built with Pi at their core. Whole startup businesses have also found a use for a low cost credit card-sized microcomputer.

Ten Raspberry Pi 2 alternatives – Summary: The Raspberry Pi 2 is the single-board computer of the moment, but there are plenty of others out there. We’ve rounded up some of the most eye-catching offerings.

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Games and Entertainment:

Cities: Skylines hands-on preview: We built this city on rocks (and roll) – EA’s 2013 SimCity reboot was a disaster. Cities XXL has received a similarly-disastrous backlash this month, albeit for different reasons. In the aftermath, all eyes turn towards Cities: Skylines, the upcoming city-builder from Cities in Motion developer Colossal Order. It’s somewhat unfair to Cities: Skylines. After all, the difference in size between SimCity developer Maxis and Colossal Order is…significant, to say the least. It’s like putting Call of Duty in the same category as [Insert small, indie shooter]. But fair or not, people have pinned a lot of hopes on Cities: Skylines. I recently got a chance to go hands-on with the game. Here’s a bit of what I learned ahead of the game’s official March 10 release date.

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Save big on games with the Ultimate Game Sale on Xbox – Microsoft has been offering discount after discount when it comes to the company’s Xbox One console and games. Starting today, Xbox One owners that sign into Xbox Live will notice a tile on the home screen that reads “Ultimate Game Sale”. Selecting the tile will reveal the entire selection of games on sale to both Xbox Live “Silver” and “Gold” members, meaning you don’t have to have an active Xbox Live Gold subscription to get in on the savings. However, Gold members will see a bigger discount on almost every available game. Here’s a list of Xbox One games currently on sale with the Gold/Silver discount percentages:

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Hulu Replaces Its Queue With “Watchlist,” A Smarter, More Personalized View Of Your Favorite Shows – Hulu today is introducing a new feature called Watchlist, designed to offer users a smarter and more personalized area featuring the shows you’re interested in viewing. The addition actually replaces three others features on Hulu: your Queue, your Favorites and the Shows You Watch tray.

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Halo: Nightfall hits video-on-demand services March 17 – Produced by Ridley Scott and Xbox Entertainment Studios, Halo: Nightfall is an origin story for Spartan Agent Jameson Locke and follows his investigation of a biological attack. A key character in Halo 5, Locke is played by Mike Colter, who’s also set to play Luke Cage in the Marvel Netflix shows. The series originally ran as episodes on Windows platforms last November and December, but this new release combines all five segments into a single film. You can purchase it digitally as well as on DVD and Blu-ray.

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The Best iPhone Games You Should Play This Week – Had enough Candy Crush and looking for some fun new games to play on your iPhone? Here are five favorites TIME rounded up this week.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Listen To All The Stuff MP3 Compression Leaves Out – MP3s have become so ubiquitous that we often forget it’s a compression format. When music gets trimmed to one-tenth of its original size, lots of information deemed “unimportant” gets tossed out. Here’s what we’re missing.

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Obama accuses EU of attacking American tech companies because it ‘can’t compete’ – Barack Obama has angered officials in Europe after suggesting that investigations by the European Union into companies like Google and Facebook were “commercially driven.” In an interview with Recode, the president claimed that European “service providers who … can’t compete with ours, are essentially trying to set up some roadblocks for our companies to operate effectively there.” The truth, however, is more nuanced than this.

Photos: Drones for good – from disaster rescue to replanting the world’s forests – Drones increasingly play a role in modern warfare, with the US military planning to spend about $2bn on the unmanned aircraft this year. To highlight that drones have uses beyond killing, the world’s first Drones for Good competition was held in Dubai this month. Thirty nine entrants worldwide were whittled down to five finalists, who competed for a $1m grant to develop prototype drones for purposes ranging from organ transportation to disaster rescue.

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U.S. Will Allow Export of Armed Drones – The State Department announced new policies Tuesday stipulating that U.S. drones can only be exported through government programs and that the receiving country needs to agree to certain conditions about what the drone will be used for. Under the new rules, exports of armed military drones must be made through government entities and the nations receiving the devices must agree to “end-use assurances,” according to the State Department.

Something to think about:

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

–      Howard Zinn

Today’s Free Downloads:

IceCream Media Converter – Meet IceCream Media Converter, one of the most powerful and user-friendly media conversion tools that supports major and popular audio and video formats. The program also allows you to download YouTube videos and convert them to AVI, MP4, MP3 and other formats. Its intuitive interface makes conversion of AVI, MKV, MP4, WMV, MP3, WAV, MPEG, WMA and other files to any audio and video format easy for everyone.

Audio and video formats supported:

flv, mkv, mp4, avi, swf, 3gp, flac, wmv, vob, rmvb, mov, m4v, midi, mp4, mpg, mpeg, m2ts, mts, mp3, wma, wav, m4a, m4p, cda, aac, aiff, ogg

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KeyScrambler – KeyScrambler encrypts your keystrokes deep in the kernel, foiling keylogging attacks with scrambled, undecipherable data.

This advanced method of keystroke protection defeats both known and unknown keyloggers.

The friendly interface displays realtime encrypted stream of keystrokes so you see when and how KeyScrambler is working.

Strengthens where defenses are the weakest in your traditional anti-virus, anti-malware programs and PC security.

Compare Editions – A free browser add-on, KeyScrambler Personal protects all your inputs in IE, Firefox, and Flock. KeyScrambler Pro and Premium are paid programs that protect a wide array of apps.

How It Works – KeyScrambler encrypts your keystrokes at the keyboard driver level and decrypts them at the destination application, giving keyloggers “scrambled,” useless keys to record.

For Online Games – Both KeyScrambler Pro and Premium protect your player’s IDs, passwords and digital assets in over two dozen online games.

For Business – Read how and why KeyScrambler is important for your business. KeyScrambler Premium protects critical systems and reduces risks of information theft at the workplace.

Features – KeyScrambler defeats known and unknown keyloggers; also protects Chinese, Japanese, and Korean inputs; is compatible with other security programs, tokens and smart cards; and requires no user effort.

How To – The user-friendly interface allows you to do things on KeyScrambler for a more comfortable, personalized fit.

Supports – Advanced Browser, AM Browser, AOL Explorer, AOL 9, Avant, Comodo Dragon, Comodo IceDragon, CometBird, Crazy Browser, Firefox, Flock, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, K-meleon, Maxthon, MSN Explorer, Netscape, Orca Browser, Opera, Safari, Seamonkey, SlimBrowser, SR Iron Browser, TheWorld Browser, Palemoon, Lunascape, RockMelt, WaterFox, and Yahoo Browser.

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My WiFi Router – My WiFi Router 3.0 helps turn your laptop into your own public or private Wi-Fi hotspot. You can allow or blacklist users under Connection Management, share videos, and shut down the computer providing Wi-Fi access automatically by timer. (free)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Congress unites to back law that would curb warrantless email searches – More than half of the US House of Representatives have backed a proposed law that aims to end warrantless searches of email inboxes.

The proposed law, titled the Email Privacy Act 2015, aims to close a loophole introduced in law three decades ago, which allows the government to access and read emails that were opened more than six months earlier without a court’s approval.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI, 5th), who authored the controversial Patriot Act, and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY, 4th), whose election was won on supporting privacy matters, are among the 240 members of the House who co-sponsored the bill.

A corresponding bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), was introduced in the Senate last week.

The Department of Homeland Security is a total disaster. It’s time to abolish it – DHS was a mistake to begin with. Instead of solving the coordination problems it was supposed to solve, it simply duplicated efforts already happening in other federal departments. And attempts to control and distinguish the department have politicized it to the point where it can’t function smoothly — and might be threatening national security.

This isn’t to say that DHS should be fully liquidated. The argument is there’s no reason for it to exist as its own department when it can be reabsorbed into the various departments (from Justice to Treasury) from which it was assembled.

Obama hedges position on encryption. It’s good. It’s bad – President Barack Obama is making his position on encryption known: he is a supporter and “believer in strong encryption” but also “sympathetic” to law enforcement’s needs to prevent terror attacks.

“I think the only concern is… our law enforcement is expected to stop every plot. Every attack. Any bomb on a plane. The first time that attack takes place, where it turns out we had a lead and couldn’t follow up on it, the public’s going to demand answers. This is a public conversation that we should be having,” Obama said in a Friday interview with Re/Code. “I lean probably further in the direction of strong encryption than some do inside law enforcement. But I am sympathetic to law enforcement, because I know the kind of pressure they’re under to keep us safe. And it’s not as black and white as it’s sometimes portrayed. Now, in fairness, I think those in favor of air tight encryption also want to be protected from terrorists.”

Australia: AU$400m for data retention the cost of freedom: Abbott – The introduction of a two-year mandatory metadata-retention scheme costing AU$400 million of taxpayers’ money is a small price to pay, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday.

“The cost of data retention is less than 1 percent of the total sector,” Abbott said. “It seems like a small price to pay to give ourselves the kind of safety and the kind of freedom that people in a country like Australia deserve.”

Abbott warned that if parliament blocks the proposed data-retention scheme, it would be a form of “unilateral disarmament in the face of criminals”.

The highest cost estimate for retaining the data is only 1 percent of the AU$40 billion telecommunications sector, he said.

“The cost of losing this data is an explosion in unsolved crime,” Abbott told reporters on the Gold Coast while visiting the child protection organisation Bravehearts.

Abbott insisted that the changes will help authorities track terrorists, corporate fraudsters, and pedophiles, and said that privacy concerns have been overblown.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 17, 2015

20 free PC apps to ease daily tasks;  How to protect your wireless router from malware;  17 obscure Windows tools and tricks;  These 5 Apps Will Help You Survive a Long Distance Relationship;  6 Tips to Save Your Laptop’s Battery From Dying;  AT&T CEO: ‘There Will Be Litigation’ on Net Neutrality;  10 good iPad apps for productivity;  Gamers Spent How Much on Candy Crush Saga?  The 25 Best Fitness Apps;  Xbox One Upload Studio major update;  6 Tips to Save Your Laptop’s Battery From Dying.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

17 obscure Windows tools and tricks too powerful to overlook – The beauty of Windows lies in its flexibility and depth. In fact, Windows is so deep and flexible that many of us never touch its more powerful tools, whether from unawareness or sheer forgetfulness. But beneath Internet Explorer and the Start button hides a universe of tools and tricks that are positively brimming with potential. With that in mind, let’s brush the cobwebs off some classic Windows power tips that you’re likely to have forgotten about.

20 free PC apps to ease daily tasks – Some of the best things in a PC lover’s life are indeed free, but they’re not always obvious. Beyond the free security tools and other must-have programs to install on a new PC lies a whole universe of lesser known, yet no less stellar software that’s just begging for a spot on your hard drive. Need proof? Check out the following 20 supremely handy-dandy programs. None are household names, but all will rock your world.

Slow Wi-Fi speeds? How to improve your wireless network – Suffering from a slow or sluggish home internet connection? Here are eight ways to help improve your network speeds.

How to protect your wireless router from malware – As I pointed out last year, your router’s IP address is anything but a secret. Every website you visit gets a look at that number. And from that IP address, they can discover your ISP and your general location (your neighborhood, but not your address). But can they infect your router with malware? It’s not likely, but the danger is significant enough to take precautions.

The 25 Best Fitness Apps – Exercise more, build muscle, lose weight, or simply cut back on the cookies. Be the best version of you with these apps guiding the way.

10 good iPad apps for productivity – The iPad is a capable tool for work but requires good apps to provide the needed functionality. These 10 apps will go a long way to meeting the needs of most iPad users. You can’t work all the time so we threw in a hot new game for down time.

CogniToys packs IBM’s Watson into a smart-talking toy – IBM’s Watson supercomputer may not be the first pseudo-teacher you’d think to leave with your child, but startup Elemental Path thinks wrapping the cognitive computer in a cute dinosaur casing might change that. CogniToys – currently a cute green dino, but with other shapes and species expected to follow – pair Watson’s ability to learn, remember, and adapt with a speech recognition engine, so that – so the theory goes – as kids play the dinosaur can quietly broaden their learning while personalizing it to keep them engaged.

Photos: Five OSes you can run on your Raspberry Pi 2 – From the OSMC media centre to the latest version of Fedora these are the OSes that will run on the Pi 2 and how to install them.

These 5 Apps Will Help You Survive a Long Distance Relationship – Distance got you down? Stay connected with your loved one no matter how far apart you are on Valentine’s Day. While you’ll have to wait to send someone your heartbeat via the Apple Watch, these five apps should hold you over until April.

Short for iOS brings articles you can read in under 10 minutes – Throughout your day, you probably find yourself with time to spare. Not a lot of time, but enough to make standing there doing nothing slightly awkward. A new app, Short, might just change that for you. Rather than waste time with a game or social media, Short finds content you might like to read, which can be filtered to suit the time you have available. Though it’s iOS-only, Short is free to download and use, offers no in-app purchases, and has both an iPhone and iPad version available.

6 Tips to Save Your Laptop’s Battery From Dying – We’ve all been there: Typing away furiously on our laptop, only to find our battery is quickly approaching zero and there’s not an outlet in sight. In order to resolve an immediate crisis of rapid battery drainage, there are a few things you can do to buy yourself some time before you need to reach for a charger:

Security:

Beyond Stuxnet and Flame: Equation ‘most advanced’ cybercriminal gang recorded – Kaspersky Labs has discovered the “ancestor” of Stuxnet and Flame, a threat actor which surpasses everything else in complexity and technique sophistication. On Monday at the Kaspersky Labs Security Analyst Summit, the firm unveiled research concerning the existence of a cyberattack team dubbed The Equation Group. The group, which Kaspersky Lab Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) members dub the “ancestor” of Stuxnet and Flame operators, has been in operation dating back to 2001 and possibly as early as 1996.

Microsoft makes biometrics focal point for Windows 10 security – With Windows 10, you’ll have more options for password protection. In a recent blog post, Microsoft announced they’ll support new Fast Identity Online Alliance (FIDO) standards, which they also helped contribute to. With FIDO 2.0, you’ll have wider availability to use biometrics, which means your next-generation PC might have some biometric scanners built right in. In fact, it could make that Synaptics touchpad, which also supports new FIDO guidelines, a must-have accompaniment for Windows 10, if you’re of the mind that fingerprints are better than passwords.

How to lock down an insecure wireless network router – Your home router is vulnerable to attacks as soon as you take it out of the box. Here are a number of ways you can secure your home wireless network.

Exploitation By Consent – Many startups and consumers don’t take even the most basic steps to stop their digital assets, and even themselves, from being exploited. They should. Exploits can wreak havoc on consumers and startups, such as stealing bank account passwords and credit-card numbers, encrypting all the files on a computer and demanding a hefty ransom to get them back, and even accessing documents that have recently been copied on your copy machine, such as passports and tax forms. But there are things every startup and user can do to stop exploits.

Company News:

AT&T CEO: ‘There Will Be Litigation’ on Net Neutrality – AT&T chief Randall Stephenson is pushing back on the FCC’s net neutrality plan, telling CNBC that lawsuits are likely in the cards. If the FCC is committed to its current path, “there will be litigation,” Stephenson said during a Friday CNBC interview. He stopped short of saying that AT&T will file that suit; it “may take the form of industry movement,” he speculated. But however it happens, “it’s quite certain” that a lawsuit is on the horizon. Stephenson didn’t elaborate on the grounds for such a lawsuit, though he did say that the industry will likely ask for a delay in the implementation of whatever rules the FCC votes on later this month.

LG president indicted for allegedly damaging Samsung washing machines – On Sunday, LG confirmed that it had been indicted in South Korea after its Home Appliance Division President Jo Seong-jin allegedly damaged the doors of several Samsung washing machines in the days leading up to a trade show in Germany. On Monday, LG took the news to the general public, releasing edited CCTV footage that it says shows that Jo did not intentionally damage the doors. The indictment comes with charges of vandalizing Samsung’s new “Crystal Blue” front-loading washing machines, as well as charges of defamation and obstruction of business. LG has called the claims “excessive” and has filed a countersuit.

AT&T finally gives BlackBerry’s Passport and Classic some shelf-space – The BlackBerry Passport and Classic are wildly popular, the Canadian company has continually insisted, and would be more so if carriers would only get onboard; now, they’ll have a chance to prove it, courtesy of AT&T. After no small delay, both the Passport and its more regularly-shaped Classic sibling are headed to AT&T stores on February 20th, the operator has confirmed, not only offering a subsidized way of buying both phones in the US, but more importantly giving BlackBerry the opportunity to put its sales where its hype has been.

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Indian phone makers grow wings, swoop into foreign territories – Summary:It was only a matter of time before the new kings of the domestic smartphone scene in India ventured onto other shores to pad their coffers. Yet, it may have been more than just global ambition that got them there.

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Spice’s Android One version for Indonesia

IBM to invest $1 billion in software defined storage chase – IBM on Tuesday said it will invest $1 billion in its storage software portfolio over the next five years. The company launched Spectrum Storage, a set of applications designed to manage storage and make an enterprise’s data assets more efficient. The move highlights a reality for traditional enterprise storage giants—data centers are becoming software defined. That move to software defined storage, which trails servers and networking, is going to mean more licenses and less hardware sold. In a big data era, storage is becoming a huge line item and companies need to squeeze efficiencies out of how they manage information.

Games and Entertainment:

Gamers Spent How Much on Candy Crush Saga? – According to The Guardian, Candy Crush Saga players spent approximately $1.33 billion on in-app purchases over the entirety of 2014. Just let that sink in for a minute: $1.33 billion on little additions to a mobile game. While King hasn’t supplied a figure for the game’s lifetime spending, The Guardian estimates that players have likely spent more than $3 billion on purchases at this point. In the last 18 months, the game’s players have spent about $2.37 billion.

‘The Order: 1886’ Stands to Dramatically Divide the PlayStation Audience – One of the PlayStation 4’s two big exclusives in the first quarter of 2015, beside the upcoming Dark Souls successor Bloodborne, The Order: 1886 needs to comprise a cornerstone release for the system, bringing newcomers to Sony’s core console and rewarding earlier adopters who’ve hardly been treated to platform-specific essentials so far. Exactly how it fares with reviewers remains to be seen: an embargo restricts that kind of coverage from running until the 19th of February, the day before the game’s release. Adopting cinematic convention, where movies with no press screenings are usually best left unseen, this could imply that The Order: 1886 is going to blow – and holding reviews back until the last minute prevents a rush of pre-order cancellations. Its chances aren’t helped, either, by lukewarm preview coverage in the gaming press.

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This racing simulator puts you in the car, no virtual reality necessary – With the availability of Oculus Rift (hopefully this year) a number of simulation games are going to be greatly enhanced. One of those is racing simulation, but it turns out you really don’t need virtual reality to get that “in the car” feel. As you can see in the image above, his racing rig looks high end, but also pretty standard. It’s a frame, a big TV, racing seat, wheel, pedals, and gear stick. However, once you’re sat in it and the cockpit view is selected in your game of choice, the experience becomes very real from the perspective of the driver. This video captures perfectly just how good this setup looks when racing:

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Xbox One Upload Studio major update adds effects, templates – Gone are the days when gaming consoles were just that, dedicated computers made for consuming games. Now they have become content creation devices as well that have even turned some gamers into Internet superstars. In the Xbox One world, this is made possible with the Upload Studio app. Today, Microsoft is pushing out a major update to the software that gives users a lot more control and even more options to let their creative juices flow and put together their next big Internet show.

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Sling TV takes a swing at HBO with Epix video-on-demand – Today Dish announced that its live TV streaming service will soon include access to four new channels—Epix, Epix2, Epix3, and Epix Drive-In—as well as 2,000 movies and TV shows from the Epix network’s subscription video-on-demand service. Sling TV launched earlier this year in an attempt to capture the growing market of cord cutters—people who’ve stopped paying for cable or never paid for cable in the first place because they consider it too costly and don’t want to pay for lots of channels they don’t watch.

Off Topic (Sort of):

These Are the Songs People Have Sex To, According to Spotify – According to streaming music service Spotify, indie rockers The XX rule the bedroom. The band’s song “Intro,” the first on their debut album, is the most likely track to appear on user-made “sex” playlists on the service. The Guardian reports there are some 2.5 million such playlists on Spotify. On average, men are more likely to have created sex playlists than women—56% to 44%. Top artists include Chet Faker, Zella Day and LP. The full collection of top songs are available here:

IO Hawk, the Segway-like mover you might actually want, is now available – Tired of walking around everywhere? The team behind the Segway thought you might be, but their design was awkward at best. the big handlebar rising up from the pedestal made you wonder if you were on some sort of odd scooter, which is counterintuitive when you’re essentially standing still. The IO Hawk, fist unveiled at CES this year, is like a Segway, but ditches the weird handlebar, leaving you free to move about and balance a bit more naturally. For $1,800, it can be yours, too.

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Toyota is using Oculus Rift to educate drivers about distracted driving – In an effort to make drivers more aware of the dangers of not paying attention while driving, Toyota has launched a virtual reality distracted driving simulator as part of its TeenDrive365 campaign.

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Five things you need to know about the FAA’s new rules for flying drones – The Federal Aviation Agency just introduced its long awaited proposal for new drone regulations. Nothing will become official until after a period of public comment, but the industry is hailing the FAA’s approach as a sensible update that would allow the industry to finally move forward with everyday use of drones. Here are the five big takeaways from yesterday’s news.

Facebook posts land inmate 35 years in the hole – Being punished for accessing Facebook is nothing new — it’s just typically grounded pre-teens who face the wrath of their parents, not an inmate at a state correctional facility. In South Carolina, one inmate just received 37 years — years — in solitary confinement for posting how much he missed his family. In addition to the alone time, the inmate in question, Tyheem Henry, also lost double that time (74 years) of canteen (inside marketplace for snacks and such), phone, and visitation privileges.

Pointing up    I was under the impression that the U.S. Constitution forbid “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Well, I suppose that only applies to the regular cruel and unusual punishments – drawing and quartering, burning at the stake, waterboarding – you know, that sort of thing. Regular, day in and day out stuff. But not, it seems, 37 freaking years in solitary confinement!

But hey, not to worry – America’s politicized judicial system (elected judges and the like), will be bound to treat you (or a member of your family) fairly, when you appear before the bench. Right? Right?

That time may be sooner than you think.

Wall Street Journal – Over the past 20 years, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates. As a result, the FBI currently has 77.7 million individuals on file in its master criminal database—or nearly one out of every three American adults.

Penguins can’t taste ice cream, so says science – All penguins – of all types – have been discovered to have no taste for sweet, bitter, and umami flavors of edible matter. Of course they can’t taste anything sweet, even if it happens to be a sweet-tasting rock – but this finding is linked inextricably to eating. As it turns out, its likely penguins lost their taste for several types of food over the course of their migration to cold climates and evolution to the creatures they are today – friendly, tasteless waddlers though they are.

Something to think about:

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

–       Voltaire

Today’s Free Downloads:

WinToUSB 2.1 Beta / 1.6 – WinToUSB is a free software that allows you to install and run Windows operating system on a USB hard drive or USB flash drive, using an ISO image or CD/DVD drive as the source of installation.

If you have a Windows installation source (a DVD disc, an image file) and a valid Windows product key, you can use WinToUSB to install Windows on your USB drive.

WinToUSB’s key features include:

Easy-to-use wizard interface that provides step-by-step instructions for installing Windows on a USB hard drive or USB flash drive.

Install Windows from an ISO image or CD/DVD drive.

Use any edition of Windows 8(.1) to create Windows To Go USB drive.

Support for MBR and GPT disk layouts.

Don’t need install WAIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit) or WADK (Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit).

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BrowsingHistoryView – BrowsingHistoryView is a handy and reliable application designed to view your browsing history from multiple browsers at once.

The software includes in the report details such as: visit time, visit count, user profile and the web browser that was used to access that webpage. BrowsingHistoryView features support for the following web browsers: IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Find Out If U.K. Spied On You Illegally Via NSA’s Prism, Upstream – Following a landmark legal ruling earlier this month that, prior to December 2014, the U.K.’s spy agency GCHQ acted illegally by receiving data from the NSA’s surveillance dragnets, privacy advocacy organization Privacy International has set up an online form where people can submit a request to be informed whether they were spied on in the past.

This only applies to retrospective snooping by the British — which is what the court in question, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), deemed GCHQ to have improperly engaged in. So no, you can’t use this campaign to ask whether the U.K. intelligence agencies are spying on you now.

And it also only applies specifically to the NSA’s Prism surveillance program, where it collects data direct from U.S. Internet companies, and to Upstream, where it taps directly into Internet cables to gather data — and where the data from those programs was passed on to the British. So any GCHQ-initiated snooping also isn’t covered here.

But you don’t have to be British or live in the U.K. to file a request. Anyone can ask whether their data was improperly accessed.

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NSA compromised hard disk firmware to spread spookware: Kaspersky – America’s National Security Agency (NSA) has infected hard disk firmware with spyware in a campaign valued as highly as Stuxnet and dating back at least 14 years, and possibly up to two decades, according to an analysis by Kaspersky labs and subsequent reports.

The campaign infected possibly tens of thousands of computers in telecommunications providers, governments, militaries, utilities, and mass media organisations among others in more than 30 countries.

The agency is said to have compromised hard drive firmware for more than a dozen top brands, including Seagate, Western Digital, IBM, Toshiba, Samsung and Maxtor, Kaspersky researchers revealed.

Reuters reports sources formerly working with the NSA confirmed the agency was responsible for the attacks, which Kaspersky doesn’t lay at the feet of the agency.

Kaspersky’s analysis says the NSA made a breakthrough by infecting hard disk firmware with malware known only as nls_933w.dll capable of persisting across machine wipes to re-infect targeted systems.

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Dutch DPA says government’s data retention plans still illegal – The Netherlands’ Data Protection Authority has criticised that government’s proposed data retention legislation.

The government put forward amendments to its data retention regime in response to the April 2014 European Court of Justice decision that invalidated the EU’s Data Retention Directive (along the way causing trouble for countries that had based their laws on the DRD).

A court case was launched in November 2014 in The Netherlands to overturn the legislation.

In this statement, the DPA says the current legislation should not be presented to parliament, because “the need to retain all telephony and internet data in the Netherlands is insufficiently substantiated”.

Obama Acknowledges U.S. ‘Plays Offense’ on Foreign Hacking – President Obama acknowledged that the United States “plays offense” against other countries online, arguing that the lines between defensive and aggressive actions are blurred in the world of cybersecurity.

In an interview with the tech news website Re/Code during a visit to Silicon Valley, Obama compared online security to basketball, describing a fluid situation where America routinely switches between offensive and defensive actions.

“This is more like basketball than football in the sense that there’s no clear line between offense and defense,” he said. “Things are going back and forth all the time.”

Obama called for a set of international protocols that would set “clear limits and guidelines” on cyberwarfare.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 16, 2015

6 DNS services protect against malware and other unwanted content;  How to disable the annoying sounds in the Facebook app;  Microsoft is selling the Lumia 520 for just $29;  Microsoft unlocks restricted features for free OneNote 2013 users;  Apple makes iWork available to Windows users for free;  Google Talk is dead, third-party support lives on;  Cheap, functional, upgradeable: HP’s Stream and Pavilion Mini desktops reviewed;  How Good Is a $199 Laptop?  Microsoft’s patchwork falls apart … AGAIN!  The Best Tax Software for 2015;  Mozilla puts another nail on Flash’s coffin;  Google’s View-Master: here’s how it works;  Tested: Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards for every budget;  Obama Wants Tech Firms to Alert Feds to Cyber Threats;  Why tricking someone into loving you may actually work.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

6 DNS services protect against malware and other unwanted content – While many (but not all) users are familiar with the concept of security software, there are more basic ways to protect unwary surfers from phishing sites, botnets, intrusive advertising and other unwanted visitors: DNS services. Since DNS servers are the middlemen between your browser and website content, there are many third-party DNS services that offer additional functionality for both users and network administrators. These tools can include:

How to disable the annoying sounds in the Facebook app – Facebook recently rolled out an update for iOS and Android users, adding some downright annoying sounds. Here’s how you can disable them.

Microsoft is selling the Lumia 520 for just $29 – When it first went on sale, the device was also the most affordable Windows Phone ever, and its price has continued to fall since then. Indeed, despite newer entry-level handsets such as the Lumia 435, 532 and 535 coming along, the 520 remains on sale in many parts of the world, including the US, where Microsoft is now selling the device for just $29 off-contract via its eBay outlet store.  Make sure you can get the handset unlocked before you buy.

Microsoft unlocks restricted features for free OneNote 2013 users – If you use the freebie edition of OneNote, you can now password-protect portions of your notebooks, record audio and video, and more.

Google Talk is dead, third-party support lives on – The Google Talk service itself won’t be shutting down. Users who don’t want to migrate over to Hangouts for one reason or another can still keep on using Google Talk via third-party apps, many of which are available on many other platforms besides Windows. Of course, Google warns users that these apps are not under its control, so security and privacy cannot be guaranteed. Then again, if you’ve been using a third party app already, and most Google Talk users probably do, you already have your own trusted source anyway.

8 Apple TV secrets every iOS user should know – Apple doesn’t seem to pour much love on the Apple TV, but frequent speculation claims the company has big plans for it, potentially including a Netflix-style movie service. Meanwhile, if you are one of the millions who owns an Apple TV and also uses an iOS device, you may need these tips.

Apple makes iWork available to Windows users for free – Apple has already previously offered a web version of the iWork app suite to its customers. However, to be granted access, an iCloud account is required, which has meant that a user also needed to own Apple hardware, whether a Mac or an iOS-powered device. Now that Apple has made the service available to a wider audience, anyone can now create an Apple ID straight from the browser on the iCloud website, which then gives the user access to the productivity apps iWork offers, namely Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. You can sign up for the service and try it out for yourself here.

Cheap, functional, upgradeable: HP’s Stream and Pavilion Mini desktops reviewed – The Stream and Pavilion Mini are inexpensive fully-equipped systems that are ready to work out of the box. They use lower-end processors and have lower specs all around, but they include a Windows license and even a keyboard and a mouse. If you or someone you know has a years-old mini-tower on or under their desk, these systems are attractive, inexpensive drop-in replacements.

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How Good Is a $199 Laptop? – Sure, it isn’t as good as the higher-end laptops, but at this price, you don’t expect it will be. Compared with an old netbook or even a new Chromebook, you get a lot more power and flexibility. (Chromebooks are simple, but designed for only Web applications. You can do all of that plus Windows applications on these low-end Windows devices.) I usually look at notebooks and phones that cost a lot more than this — what impressed me the most was just how good a $199 device can be these days.

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Google’s View-Master: here’s how it works – Believe it or not, you won’t actually need a View-Master to view the content Google is presenting this week. The View-Master device is just a box with a magnetic switch – just like Google Cardboard. To “view” a View-Master reel – like the “reels” you remember from the original View-Master, you’ll need only your smartphone. To view these reels correctly, you’ll need a Google Cardboard headset – and that doesn’t need to be manufactured by Mattel. The View-Master headset just makes everything easier to understand visually. Below you’ll see the first video presented by Mattel for the View-Master headset and reels. There you’ll see a fellow popping a smartphone in to the View-Master headset.

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Microsoft’s patchwork falls apart … AGAIN! – One of the patches Microsoft released this month, KB2920732, has been withdrawn because it breaks PowerPoint. By The Register’s count, this is the sixth time in eight months that Microsoft has had to withdraw a patch. Last August a patch was pulled after causing Blue Screens of Death, then in October a new hashing feature also warranted a recall. In December Redmond fluffed three patches, for root certificates, Exchange 2010 and Excel.

Free Wi-Fi is coming to train services across England and Wales by 2017 – The UK government is spending £47.8m to bring fast, reliable and free Wi-Fi to trains in five rail franchise areas across England and Wales – including the new TSGN super-franchise – from 2017.

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The Best Tax Software for 2015 – Online and mobile versions of tax-prep software make the annual ritual of ponying up to Uncle Sam less painful than ever. We test the most popular apps to help you pick the right one.

Security:

Quick! File your taxes before a hacker does it for you – There is a rise in fraudulent tax returns being filed by hackers armed with personal information from data breaches. There are only a few things someone needs to file a tax return as you. Armed with your name, address, and Social Security number it’s relatively easy to file a tax return in your name. The details beyond that don’t matter too much, and the hacker can receive the refund dollars and have them spent before you even realize the fraudulent return was filed. Here are four things you should do to guard against a fraudulent tax return being filed in your name, and to protect your credit and identity in general:

Note: Reader Dave R. just passed this on – I just got a phishing email. from irs supposedly/:Unfortunately, an issue with your federal return has caused it to be rejected by the IRS. Until you review your return and make the necessary corrections, any refund headed your way (or money you owe) will remain unprocessed. Follow the instructions to make the necessary changes, then resubmit your return:

The Anonymity Network At Risk – You don’t have to watch NCIS to know that almost everything we do leaves some kind of trail or trace. Every click of the Internet and every post we make, email we send and file we download are all being tracked by someone somewhere. Unless, of course, it isn’t. There are many reasons a person would want to go incognito on the Internet, and those reasons run the gamut from reasonable to evil. Therefore, there are many reasons a program that allows people to be anonymous on the Internet would be targeted for attack. Here’s why the anonymity network TOR is said to be at risk in 2015, and what the origin of the risk truly is.

Hackers steal $1 billion from banks around the world: report – Up to $1 billion has been stolen from 100 banks around the world by a group of international cyber criminals over a two year period, according to the Russian computer security company, Kaspersky Lab. The group, known as Carbanak, took the unusual approach of stealing directly from banks, instead of going through customers. Carefully crafted emails were used to trick employees into opening malicious software, which allowed access to the banks’ internal networks and video surveillance. Kaspersky said the video surveillance was used to learn how the bank’s processes worked, so the group could pass off their actions as legitimate processes and transactions. The group also remotely ordered ATMs to dispense cash at a time when a member would be waiting to collect the money.

Mozilla puts another nail on Flash’s coffin – Once the darling of the Web, Flash has become a liability and an embarrassment. But as much as the powers that be want and work to make Flash go the way of the dinosaur, there are still a few holdovers on the Internet that refuse, or at the very least can’t, switch away from it just yet. To help ease that transition, at least from the end user side of things, Mozilla is equipping the latest nightly version of Firefox with a tool that will little by little make Flash unnecessary.

Google’s Project Zero Now Gives Vendors Grace Period – If vendors indicate that they’ll have a patch for an exploit ready to go within 14 days of Project Zero’s previous 90-day deadline, Google won’t publish the exploit publicly.

Company News:

Apple Has Hundreds Working On An Electric Car Design, Says WSJ – Apple is working on a car, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Mac maker kicked off a top-secret project to develop an electric car with a minivan aesthetic, per the WSJ’s sources, after CEO Tim Cook approved the project nearly a year ago. It includes “hundreds” of staffers and is led by Ford Motor vet and Apple VP Steve Zadesky. The project involves research into battery tech, robotics and metal production, according to the paper. The report comes hot on the heels of a Financial Times story confirming Apple R&D efforts around car tech, and goes further than either that report or an earlier one from Business Insider wherein an Apple employee reportedly confirmed some kind of car-focused project.

Infosys to acquire startup Panaya to automate customer tasks – Indian outsourcer Infosys is to acquire Panaya, a U.S. vendor of automation technology for testing enterprise software deployments and upgrades. The cash deal values Panaya at an enterprise value of US$200 million, and is in line with the company’s strategy under new CEO Vishal Sikka to automate processes, including by using artificial intelligence, to cut down on repetitive tasks and accelerate services delivery.

Games and Entertainment:

The Best Webcomics 2015 – Of course this is the Web, so the comics that call it home tend to be a bit more ribald than what you’d see in the paper—but that’s part of the point. Rather than being mired in 90 years of homogenized humor or watered-down adventure, the best webcomics know today’s audience is edgier. (That’s our way of saying many of these are NSFW, so be careful what you click.) These are the comics for the Facebook generation, and here are the 29 we like the best, in alphabetical order.

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Assassin’s Creed movie officially in production – The long-awaited Assassin’s Creed movie is finally moving ahead, with Ubisoft revealing the film has officially entered production. The video game adaptation will be released on December 21, 2016. Michael Fassbender has long been attached as both lead actor and producer, with Justin Kurzel set to direct, and Adam Cooper and Bill Collage having written the most recent screenplay. Actual plot details are still unconfirmed, other than being a loose adaptation of the first game in the franchise. With the series’ lore centred on people in the present reliving their ancestor’s genetic memories, Fassbender is set to play a dual role in the film as both a member of the Assassin Brotherhood in the past and his own descendent.

New Doom Mod Celebrates the Art of the Selfie Stick – A brand-new mod for Doom—yes, that Doom, the very 1993 first-person-shooter that many point to as one of the genre’s most defining titles—has made its way over to Doomworld, and it makes us scratch our heads as much as we kind of want to go hunt down some Doom floppy disks and give it a whirl. Said mod, called Instadoom, allows a player to apply a total of 37 different filters to the game, all themed around the very same filters you can otherwise find on Instagram.

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Tested: Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards for every budget – What graphics card within my budget gives me the best bang for my buck? Answering the question can be a bit trickier than it seems. Raw performance is a big part of it, but factors like noise, the driver experience, and supplemental software all play a role in determining which graphics card to buy, too. Let us be your guiding light. We’ve tested graphics cards of all shapes, sizes, and price points to nail down exactly what you can expect for your money—from itty-bitty $90 cards to gargantuan, $700 behemoths with not one, but two graphics processors and custom watercooling loops.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Why tricking someone into loving you may actually work – Whether it’s a cologne laced with alleged sex pheromones, or cynical attempts to Game the opposite sex, there’s very little trendier than the ongoing (quasi)scientific quest to find and exploit bugs in human romantic psychology. An essay on one such novel idea about love recently went super-viral, recounting an attempt to force love into existence with nothing more than the right sequence of actions and biochemical signals. The idea is simple: with fine enough control over the brain, anybody can be made to fall in love with anybody.

Google Gets Patent for Body Odor-Sensing Device – Now, of course, a patent doesn’t mean that a device will ever see the light of day—and in this case, we strongly believe that Google’s patent for a fan-driven device that blows a lovely fragrance into your body when you smell likely isn’t the kind of thing that all of us will be wearing a few years from now. Still, Google has been awarded a patent for the unnamed product that does exactly that, in addition to letting you know when your friends are around so your smelly self can steer clear of them. No, we’re not making this up.

Pot Discovery App Returns to App Store – It’s been a good week for mobile potheads: After the debut of High There!, an Android dating app for pot lovers, cannabis discovery service MassRoots has returned to the Apple iTunes Store. MassRoots is only available in the 23 states with laws permitting the medical use of marijuana. It comes with a mandatory geolocation check to block users from unauthorized territories. Cupertino’s change of heart came after the developers of MassRoots and other advocacy groups petitioned the tech giant to move into the 21st century and stop barring drug-themed apps.

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The FAA just took a huge step towards legalizing commercial drone flights – The FAA’s long awaited rules for flying small drones have arrived. For the most part the agency chose to avoid adding any new restrictions, preferring to incorporate drones into the existing framework in an attempt to minimize complexity and costs. Most importantly, the agency said it believes that drones can save lives, boost the economy, and be integrated safely into the national airspace. This is a big departure from what many drone experts had predicted.

Amsterdam to get the world’s first drone air show – Air shows are typically made up of all sorts of military or civilian aircraft flying around doing their thing. In Amsterdam an air show is coming that has not one normal aircraft. This entire air show is made up of drones and the drones are festooned with lights. The show is called Air and will be held at the Amsterdam Arena.

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Quick! Print Out Your Instagram Photos! – Email, Instagram, and Twitter won’t be around forever. And the sooner we recognize that, the better off we’ll be, according to Vint Cerf. Cerf, known as the “Father of the Internet” and now a vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, recently tipped a future in which blogs, status updates, photos, videos, and official documents may perish alongside the programs needed to view them.

Something to think about:

“The public conversation about surveillance in the digital age would be a good deal more intelligent if we all read Bruce Schneier first.”

–   Malcolm Gladwell - author of David and Goliath

Today’s Free Downloads:

Audio Switcher – Easily switch between ANY sound device on your Windows PC with this incredibly small and lightweight application. Using this application allows you to switch output OR input sound devices at the click of a button, or the press of a key.

Features:

Change Windows Default Audio devices without opening Control Panel

Full Global Hot Key support which allows you to change the default audio device with the press of a key

Favorite Devices – Only your “favorite” devices will show up in the Tray Icon Menu.

Quick switch: Click on the notification icon once and it will cycle through your favorited devices! Great if you have two devices you switch between often.

Settings support for closing to tray, starting minimized to tray and running at start up (using a registry key)

Optional: Periodically check for updates

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QuickTextPaste – Small portable program that allows you to insert (paste) pre-defined text in any Windows applications via keyboard shortcut.

This program also allows you to run commands and programs via keyboard shortcut. Save time and spelling errors with this small Desktop Tool for Windows.

Features:

Very small program

Selection of text fields by single hotkey

Multiple commands as a selection (program starts) by single hotkey

Arbitrary Windows shortcut

Inserting text with multiple lines.

Launching programs from the command line (keyboard shortcut)

Paste anything you type often

Low CPU usage

Portable

Multilingual

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Obama Wants Tech Firms to Alert Feds to Cyber Threats – Ahead of a trip to Silicon Valley, President Obama today signed an executive order that’s intended to facilitate information sharing about cyber threats between the federal government and private companies.

“Rapid information sharing is an essential element of effective cyber security because it ensures that U.S. companies work together to respond to threats, rather than operating alone,” the White House said in a statement.

The move calls on companies to share data with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), which will disperse it to relevant federal agencies and other organizations on a need-to-know basis.

The administration outlined a few steps that tech companies will be taking, including a cyber-threat sharing partnership from the Cyber Threat Alliance, a group founded last year by Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks, which now includes McAfee, Symantec, Barracuda Networks, ReversingLabs, Telefónica, and Zscaler among its ranks.

The Entertainment Software Association, Box, and FireEye have made similar commitments, the White House said.

Tim Cook speaks cybersecurity at Stanford – Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned of “dire consequences” if tech companies can’t protect the privacy of those who use their products. Giving up our privacy to digital technologies exposes us to greater risks than just identity theft and financial losses — serious though those things are, Cook said in a brief speech at a cybersecurity summit in Silicon Valley on Friday.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 13, 2015

Amazon’s latest free app blowout gives away $140 in paid Android apps;  1 billion records were compromised by data breaches in 2014;  8 essential Microsoft business apps for Android phones;  You’re Going To Die. First, Choose Someone To Manage Your Facebook ;  10 Apps That Are Changing Healthcare;  VirusTotal tackles the tricky false positives problem;  Cut the hassle of scheduling meetings with these 4 tools;  Pinterest is reportedly adding a ‘buy’ button;  16 million mobile devices infected by malware;  How to connect your laptop to your HDTV without HDMI;  This is the first video game I’ll let my daughter play;  Sony releases a massive list of games scheduled for 2015;  Avira Free Antivirus 15.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Nearly 1 billion records were compromised by data breaches in 2014 – There were over 1,500 data breaches compromising nearly 1 billion data records in 2014, according to a report from the security firm Gemalto. The report, which was first spotted by The Wall Street Journal, shows 54 percent of the data breaches were related to identity theft — up from 23 percent last year — surprisingly outpacing attacks for access to financial information, which only accounted for 17 percent of the breaches in 2014. Overall, data breaches increased by 49 percent from 2013, and compromised data records jumped 78 percent in the same time frame. The decrease in bank and credit card breaches and the increase in identity theft is not a good sign, but probably an inevitable outcome.

Amazon’s latest free app blowout gives away $140 in paid Android apps – Amazon’s firing up the blue light again, and this it’s time giving away $140 worth of paid Android apps and games. The ad-free version of the red hot Trivia Crack is free, and normally costs $2.99. Another good deal is OfficeSuite Professional, an app that edits Word, Excel, and PowerPoint compatible files and typically is $20. While Office for Android tablets is finally here and rather solid, it can’t hurt to check out this longstanding editing suite. Longtime favorite Doodle Jump and fitness app Runtastic Pro also can be yours at no cost. 80 Days, the utterly wonderful mobile game that took the world by storm last year, is also available as a gratis download. Head to the Amazon Appstore page and start claiming any freebies that catch your eye. They’re available through February 14. Here’s the full list of freebies:

You’re Going To Die. First, Choose Someone To Manage Your Facebook Profile – Now you can give someone power of attorney over your digital life. Today Facebook began letting users select a “legacy contact” who can partially control their Facebook profile after they die. Legacy Contact_ChoosePreviously when you bit the dust, your friends could notify Facebook to lock your profile into a memorial page. But now if you’ve set a legacy contact, that person can pin an announcement to the top of your profile to provide details for memorial services, approve friend requests and change their profile and cover photo.

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8 essential Microsoft business apps for Android phones – Who’s the busiest developer on Android these days? Some of the most impressive business apps are coming from an unlikely source, with Microsoft’s business apps appearing on the Google Play Store and getting rave reviews.

Sling TV app heads to Amazon’s Fire TV with deep device discounts in tow – Sling TV has been promising an app for Amazon’s Fire TV since last month, and now it’s arrived with some big sign-up incentives. In exchange for three months of prepaid Sling TV service at $20 per month, you can either get a free Fire TV Stick (regularly $39) or $50 off the Fire TV set-top box (regularly $99). If you already have the hardware, Sling says you can download the app and get “a special Amazon offer for Sling TV.”

Pinterest is reportedly adding a ‘buy’ button – Pinterest is planning to introduce a “buy” button that would let users purchase some items from inside the online scrapbooking service, Recode reports. The button will apparently allow users to order and pay for goods pinned to Pinterest boards without leaving the company’s app or website, a feature that could turn Pinterest into an online shopping powerhouse. Recode’s sources say the feature could launch in three to six months, but also noted that it may take a little longer, or roll out first in a limited trial.

Cops flood Waze with fake police sightings – A lot of navigation apps dot the app stores, but Waze stands out of among them for one particular reason: it lets users know when a cop has been spotted in any particular region. Though not always accurate, this has been a favorite feature among users, and an excellent way to help avoid getting a speeding ticket. As you might have heard, though, law enforcement isn’t so happy about the feature, going so far as requesting that Google/Waze eliminate the feature in the name of officer safety. That request didn’t pan out, and now officers are using a different tactic.

Qualcomm’s Chromecast-killer is the dongle your TV wants – The competition for a place in one of your TV’s HDMI ports looks set to get fiercer, with Qualcomm showing off its take on the streaming adapter, a Snapdragon-based mini Android computer smaller than a box of matches. Dubbed the Qualcomm 4K Streaming Adapter, the bright red box – currently a working reference design – squeezes what’s effectively a full Android smartphone, albeit without the touchscreen and battery, into a plug-and-play dongle for your home entertainment needs. While we’ve seen streaming sticks before, what we haven’t seen is such a comprehensive range of wireless options: everything from the latest WiFi, though to LTE Broadcast support, and more.

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How to connect your laptop to your HDTV without HDMI – You can have an Internet-ready smart TV with a Roku plugged into it, and at some point you’ll want to watch something that neither of them support. (For me, it’s password-protected Vimeo streams.) That’s when you need to plug your laptop directly into your HDTV. If your laptop lacks an HDMI port, connecting it to a TV isn’t so easy. But it isn’t incredibly difficult either. It’s all a matter of figuring out which ports you do have and which adapters you need.

CliniCloud’s Smart Stethoscope And Thermometer Let Doctors Check Your Vitals From The Cloud – We are getting that much closer to building the doctor’s office of the future right within our homes today. Digital health diagnostic tools startup CliniCloud has launched a line of Bluetooth-connected stethoscopes and thermometers that enable consumers to check their own vitals and have a doctor access them via the cloud. These digital devices can track things like your temperature and heart rate and send a history of the recordings to an on-demand physician. The physician can then give a diagnosis without patients having to leave their homes.

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10 Apps That Are Changing Healthcare – Hiking deep in the woods, you scratch your leg and notice you’ve been bitten by, well, something, but you don’t know what. Swelling and a rash are setting in. Or maybe you’re house-bound for three days due to a bad storm. The roads are closed except for emergencies, and your baby’s cough is getting worse. What do you do? With today’s technology, you can see a doctor immediately in both of those scenarios, and in some cases even have the doctor prescribe medication, from your smartphone, no matter where you are. Telemedicine and telehealth apps are dramatically making healthcare more convenient, less expensive, more preventative, and in many cases downright better. The ten apps in this article are all excellent examples.

Parallels Desktop 10 now makes it easy for Mac users to download and run Windows 10 (for free) – Summary:An update to Parallels Desktop 10 now makes it easy for Mac users to run the Windows 10 Technical Preview, along with the Office Preview for Windows 10.

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Desktop Parallels 10

The top 5 reasons why Google Hangouts never works – To be fair to Google Hangouts, Skype has its problems, too. But it’s Google Hangouts that PCWorld’s editors have, for several years, tried and largely failed to use for staff meetings with remote users. Just when we think we’ve figured out all the kinks, something else goes awry. So we feel our readers’ pain on this one, and that’s why we asked videoconferencing expert Christopher Null how to cure five of its most notable headaches.

Darkroom for iOS may just be the best photo editor around – Editing photos on iOS isn’t difficult, and iOS 8 brought some native tweaks to make editing your pictures much easier. Still, some want more, or at least something different. There are plenty of apps out there that can deliver really solid photo editing, but the latest, Darkroom, might just be the best yet. It’s a little bit Photoshop, a lot customizable, and free (with an in-app purchase available). Darkroom even lets you create your own custom filters, should you always find yourself going a particular direction with your edits.

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Bizdaq Lets You Buy Or Sell Small And Medium-Sized Businesses – Aiming to disrupt the traditional ‘business transfer market’, the platform lets those with an existing small to medium-sized business sell to those seeking to own one of their own. These range from coffee shops to hairdressers, or any type of small business, including startups. In some ways, it’s similar to the way online estate agents (or realtors) are attacking the traditional house buying market, by not only moving most of the process online, but also in terms of cost. Bizdaq charges a monthly subscription to business owners who want to list their business for sale. This is in sharp contrast to 15 per cent commission and, sometimes, 12 month contracts that traditional brokerage companies operate.

Facebook’s App Now Makes Addictive/Annoying Little *POP* Sounds – *Zing* *Shring* *Bloop* No, these aren’t comic book fight sounds. They’re the new noises Facebook’s app makes as you navigate. The idea seems to be that these little tones will make browsing Facebook more fun and subtly convince you to use the app more. It might now seem like a big deal, but any game designer can tell you how important sounds are to creating an immersive, addictive experience. It’s the reason most freemium social games are filled with encouraging noises designed to make you feel good about yourself as you spend money on virtual cows.

Cut the hassle of scheduling meetings with these 4 tools – If you’re like me, you spend way too much time scheduling meetings. It’s a necessary evil, but maybe it doesn’t have to be so time consuming. Here are four tools to help you set your meetings up more efficiently.

5 Data-Backed Tips to Boost Your Online Dating Game – Changing just one character can increase your response rate 79%

Security:

16 million mobile devices infected by malware – Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Security Labs estimates 16 million mobile devices worldwide have been infected by malware – used by cybercriminals for corporate and personal espionage, information theft, Denial of Service attacks on businesses and governments, and banking and advertising scams. The report also found that consumers who avoid shopping online out of fear their credit or debit card information may be stolen are actually exposing themselves to greater risk: a rash of retail cyber-security breaches in 2014 were all the result of malware infections on cash registers or point-of-sale terminals, not online stores. This is largely because stolen cards from online retailers are not as valuable to criminals because they can only be used for online purchases.

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Apple now protects FaceTime and iMessage with two-step verification – Apple’s two-step login security is now keeping hackers away from some of the company’s popular services — not just iCloud. iMessage and FaceTime both take advantage of the added verification measure, which requires users to enter a unique code in addition to the regular account password before they’re able to send messages or launch a video chat. The Guardian first reported Apple’s latest expansion of two-step verification.

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Mozilla reveals Firefox add-on lockdown – Mozilla yesterday detailed plans to require Firefox add-ons to be digitally signed, a move meant to bear down on rogue and malicious extensions, and one that resembled Google’s decision years ago to secure Chrome’s add-on ecosystem. Some Firefox users called out Mozilla for disregarding its own long-and-often-expressed ethos of the need for an open Internet.

This Facebook Bug Allowed Anyone To Delete Your Photos – How many photos do you have on Facebook? How many of those are photos you never thought to back up? This just-disclosed Facebook bug would have allowed for anyone with a bit of technical know-how to delete any photo on Facebook. Fortunately, the guy who discovered the bug (Laxman Muthiyah of India) was quick to give Facebook a heads up — and for his troubles, he got a $12,500 bounty.

Jeb Bush’s privacy-shattering email cache hid another surprise: Viruses – In addition to personal phone numbers and email addresses for hundreds of people who corresponded with him, there’s something else inside the cache of emails that Jeb Bush released this week: computer viruses. Many are old and easily detectable with modern anti-virus software, but they still might pose a threat to some people running older computers or without anti-virus software.

VirusTotal tackles the tricky false positives problem plaguing antivirus software – VirusTotal, a Google-owned online malware scanning service, is creating a whitelist of products from large software vendors to reduce bad detections by antivirus programs. False positive detections are common in the antivirus industry. They occur when a benign program is wrongfully flagged as malicious due to an overly broad detection signature or algorithm used in an antivirus product. VirusTotal, which scans suspicious files uploaded by users with products from 48 antivirus vendors, invited large software makers Tuesday to add metadata about their products’ files to a new database maintained by the company.

Company News:

AMD stops shipping chips as bloated channel begs ‘Please, no more’ – Beleaguered chip underdog AMD is not shipping any new gear to channels this quarter as it bites the bullet to clear existing stock swilling around the industry, estimated to have been in excess of $100m. A combination of bad forecasting, sliding PC demand and weak supply chain controls led to the inventory nightmare, and channel partners are complaining that broker activity means prices remain unstable. Things came to a head in calendar Q4 when AMD decided to confront the problem head on, sucking down a $58m charge enabling it to “lower [the] cost of market inventory adjustment”.

Qualcomm’s regulatory woes may be adding up – Just as it settled a major investigation in China, Qualcomm may be facing even more regulatory problems. South Korean competition regulators are starting to investigate Qualcomm’s business practices there, several news sources reported, citing unnamed sources. This information comes just days after the chipmaker on Monday agreed to pay a record $975 million fine in China for alleged monopolistic practices.

Expedia to buy Orbitz for $1.6 billion – Cheaper air travel is making the world seem smaller — and that’s increasingly the case for the online booking market too, with Expedia planning to swallow up rival Orbitz Worldwide barely a month after buying the smaller Travelocity. For Expedia, the acquisition is primarily about growing its customer base: The companies offer similar services in overlapping markets. Orbitz also operates “white label” travel booking services for airlines and bank loyalty programs through its Orbitz Partner Network. Orbitz directors have advised stockholders to accept Expedia’s offer of $12 per share, which values the company at around $1.6 billion.

Zynga Drops 9% After Its $192M Q4 Revenue And Guidance Disappoint – Investors had expected the company to earn $0.00 on revenue of $201.11 million. The firm also reported bookings in the quarter of $182.4 million. The company’s flat earnings per share is based on adjusted profit. Using normally accepted accounting methods, Zynga lost $45.13 million, or $0.05 per share. In the year-ago period, Zynga had revenue of $176.36 million, on which it lost $25.24 million, or $0.03 cents per share. So, Zynga grew its revenue by just over 9 percent in the last year. Zynga announced in its earnings that it will close its games studio in China, impacting 71 employees. The company anticipates savings of $7 million per year

China’s Xiaomi takes first step into U.S. market – The biggest Android smartphone maker most Americans have probably never heard of is taking its first step into the U.S. Market. Xiaomi, which in just four years has gone from nothing to leading the Chinese market, will launch a U.S. version of its online shopping site later this year but it won’t sell the low-cost, high-spec phones for which the company has gained its reputation. Instead, it will sell a selection of phone accessories like battery packs and headphones. That doesn’t mean a U.S. launch of its phones has been ruled out, however.

Lyft said to be in talks for funding with $2B valuation – Lyft is said to be looking for new funding as it challenges its better-financed rival Uber in the car-for-hire race. Lyft is in discussions to raise $250 million, and maybe as much as $500 million, for a valuation of at least $2 billion, according to the New York Times. If the round closes, it would be the second funding round in less than a year for the 3-year-old startup and help it close the gap on Uber’s funding lead.

Games and Entertainment:

This is the first video game I’ll let my daughter play: Metamorphabet might just be the perfect introduction to touchscreens – The concept of Metamorphabet is exceedingly simple. You go through the alphabet one letter at a time, tapping on a letter will cause it to animate in different ways. Tap the big green A once and it grows antlers, tap it again and it morphs into an arch. Once more and that arch starts to amble along, before moving you on to the letter B. The interactions and animations are charming and intuitive: it’s fun just to watch things happen. A soothing voice says the new words and letters as they appear on screen.

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Introducing Freeview Play, a new connected TV platform from the UK’s top broadcasters – Satellite TV service Sky and cable giant Virgin Media lead the way in offering pay-TV services to UK consumers, but the nation’s most-watched TV service is still Freeview. The digital terrestrial service is completely free, and offers 60 TV channels, with 12 HD channels, and 25 radio stations – and it’s now expanding its offering beyond live broadcasts to on-demand viewing. Today, Freeview unveiled an updated brand identity, which coincides with the announcement of Freeview Play, a new connected TV service from the UK’s leading broadcasters – the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, and even Sky – and broadcast solutions provider Arqiva.

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James Franco will star in Hulu’s new time-travel show from Stephen King and J.J. Abrams – James Franco has signed on to star in 11/22/63, a time-travel miniseries that’s shaping up to be Hulu’s highest-profile show yet. The show is based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, and it’s being adapted for Hulu by J.J. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot. King and Abrams are executive producers of the show.

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Sony releases a massive list of games scheduled for 2015 – Sony has just released a massive list of the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita games scheduled for 2015 including games with confirmed release dates and games with launch dates which are yet to be announced.

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Browsing the Twisted World of Online Porn Games – Sex in video games, as has been pointed out extensively, doesn’t really work. There’s a lot of waiting around, the graphics aren’t really there yet, and the only console with a one-handed controller is exclusively for children. Nope, if you’re looking to combine sex and gaming—and as a species, we’re apparently persisting with this—a much more logical place to start would be the world of internet browser games. Quick and to the point, usually demanding nothing more of you than a mouse hand, and you’re only a click away from actual, proper porn if needs be. So, have any of the limitless nerds making cheap, casual, online games cracked the code? I had a good, long, not-especially-hard look, and below is what’s available.

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LEGO bringing 32 new Star Wars sets for 2015 – LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens will be just one piece of the puzzle this year. The biggest toy company in the world has released notes at NYC’s Toy Fair on their 2015 line of Star Wars sets, with LEGO bricks ranging from Star Wars Rebels through to the prequels and back to Star Wars Rebels. In all, LEGO has announced that 32 new sets will be coming to their Star Wars collection – and that’s just so far. There may well be more up their sleeve.

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‘Sunless Sea’ Is the First Essential Video Game of 2015 – Victorian London has been pulled underground, and now lies just downstream from Hell. Surrounding it is an endless, black expanse of water called the Broad Unterzee, and as a ship captain, it’s your job to explore it. This is the bizarre premise of Sunless Sea, a Lovecraft-inspired nautical RPG with a heavy emphasis on exploration and storytelling that’s just been released for Mac and PC by Failbetter Games. It’s a wonderfully original setting for some complex storytelling, and it might just be considered this year’s first essential release.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Watch: China has made an internet censorship THEME SONG: Never has repression sounded so good – Creating patriotic songs is an age-old solution to difficult problems, albeit one that is out of fashion in the Western world. Not so in China, which has just released a tremendous rousing tribute to its clean, clear and incorruptible internet. The song is performed by the Cyberspace Administration of China choral group, otherwise known as the people who censor the internet inside China and remove any mention of things like the Tiananmen Square massacre or Falun Gong. Called Cyberspace Spirit, the bombastic tune features a large mixed choir and four solo singers who regale an audience with their song while informing them that they are also keeping a close eye on everything they view and type.

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YouTube porn filters versus Irish Gaelic; luck of the Irish wins – It’s a well known fact that pornography on YouTube is strictly forbidden, with the exception of educational and “art house” type movies being the (for investigative purposes researched!) exception to the rule, and even then, you must be logged in, confirmed to be over 18 and have the “family filter” disabled to view them. YouTube uses an algorithm for uploaded content as a first defense, with other levels relying on user reports for any breaches of this rule. However, it would appear that the Irish (Gaelic) language wasn’t included in those filters, as one YouTube user, using an Asian woman for an avatar discovered. The user was able to upload at least twenty pornographic videos that went unmonitored for “months” before being reported and pulled.

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Bystander’s video shows cops shooting, killing fleeing man – The video, which sparked protests, shows police firing at the man then chasing him across a busy intersection and shooting him multiple more times. About a dozen shots were fired, according to the video. The video is among a recent wave of footage uploaded to YouTube capturing police-involved shootings. The videos have come from a variety of sources, taken by bystanders and police officer dash or body cams.

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Cracked: 18 Horrifying Things Hidden in the Fine Print

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Pointing up    Just one of a number of pointed examples, in this humourous article, as to why it’s necessary to read a EULA. It’s easily overshadowed by the following, in which the intent is quite clear.

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Which Drugs Are the Deadliest to Drive On? – This month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report (pdf) called “Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk” that took a look at how often illegal drugs cause car accidents. In a finding that should surprise nobody, researchers found that people who used drugs were more likely to crash. “However,” they added, “analyses incorporating adjustments for age, gender, ethnicity, and alcohol concentration level did not show a significant increase in levels of crash risk associated with the presence of drugs.” In layman’s terms, that means that you’re not statistically more likely to get into a wreck if you’re on drugs—but it’s possible that if you’re driving on drugs you’ll also be drunk, or simply young and making bad decisions, which increases your chances of bending your vehicle around a telephone pole.

Something to think about:

“For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else.”

–      Sir Winston Churchill

Today’s Free Downloads:

Avira Free Antivirus 15.0.8.624 – Avira AntiVir Personal FREE Antivirus was developed to be a reliable free antivirus solution, that constantly and rapidly scans your computer for malicious programs such as viruses, Trojans, backdoor programs, hoaxes, worms, dialers etc. Monitors every action executed by the user or the operating system and reacts promptly when a malicious program is detected.

Avira AntiVir Personal is a comprehensive, easy to use antivirus program, designed to offer reliable free of charge virus protection to home-users, for personal use only, and is not for business or commercial use.

Avira AntiVir Personal gives you the following functions:

Control Center for monitoring, administering and controlling the entire program

Central configuration with user-friendly standard and advanced options and context-sensitive help

Scanner (On-Demand Scan) with profile-controlled and configurable search for all known types of virus and malware

Integration into the Windows Vista User Account Control allows you to carry out tasks requiring administrator rights

Guard (On-Access Scan) for continuous monitoring of all file access attempts

Integrated quarantine management to isolate and process suspicious files

Rootkit protection for detecting hidden malware installed in your computer system (rootkits) (Only for 32-bit systems)

Direct access to detailed information on the detected viruses and malware via the Internet

Simple and quick updates to the program, virus definitions, and search engine through Single File Update and incremental VDF updates via a webserver on the Internet

Integrated Scheduler to plan one-off or recurring tasks, such as updates or test runs

Very high rates of virus and malware detection using innovative search technologies (search engines) and heuristic search processes

Detection of all common archive types, including detection of nested archives and smart extensions

High-performance multithreading function (simultaneous high-speed scanning of multiple files)

Features:

AntiVir protection against viruses, worms and Trojans AntiDialer protection against expensive dialers

AntiRootkit protection against hidden rootkits

Faster Scanning up to 20% faster

AntiPhishing protection against phishing

AntiSpyware protection against spyware and adware NetbookSupport for laptops with low resolution

QuickRemoval eliminates viruses at the push of a button

Limitations: Avira AntiVir Personal is free for personal use only.

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Windows USB Blocker – Windows USB Blocker will quickly block or unblock USB storage devices on any Windows system.

USB devices are one of the primary causes for spreading virus/malware from one system to another without the user knowledge. Often it is risky to allow others to insert USB stick (often infected with virus) into your system. Hence it is always advised to disable USB when you are not around.

In such cases, Windows USB Blocker tool will help you to instantly block USB and safeguard your system from these viruses.

Beauty of this tool is that it will block only USB Storage devices like USB Sticks or Portable Disks. However normal USB devices like wireless keyboard/mouse plugs, bluetooth/wireless/internet dongles will continue to work without any problem.

It has cool GUI interface and very simple to use for everyone. With just one click you can instantly Block or Unblock USB on your system and it is fully portable.

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Disk Savvy – DiskSavvy is a straight-forward HDD space analyzer utility that will enable you to analyze your disk usage usage for multiple directories, network shares or NAS storage devices.

DiskSavvy provides multiple disk usage analysis capabilities, built-in file copy, move and delete features and user-defined profiles.

Features:

Maximum Number of Files – 100,000

Maximum Storage Capacity – 1 TB

Maximum Number of Profiles – 3

Support for Long File Names

Support for Unicode File Names

Support for UNC Network Path Names

Built-In File Management Operations

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FBI Director Defends Police, Says Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist – FBI Director James Comey repeatedly defended the police in a speech intended to address race relations after a series of high profile killings by law enforcement officers.

Speaking at Georgetown University this morning, Comey said citizens need to have more empathy for police, that police response time is not influenced by race, and that “law enforcement is not the root cause of problems in our hardest hit neighborhoods.”

Comey also cited and quoted from the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from the Broadway play Avenue Q, adding that, while everyone has a duty to try and overcome bias, “racial bias isn’t epidemic in those who join law enforcement any more than it is epidemic in academia or the arts.” And yet “after years of police work, officers often can’t help but be influenced by the cynicism they feel” and begin viewing black citizens differently.

The much-anticipated address comes in the wake of a series of killings of black citizens at the hands of local police, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio. Video of the speech is available here, and the prepared, written version of the remarks here.

Pointing up    Yeah, that’s it! Push forward the “but everybody is doing it Mom” argument.

As White House bangs cybersecurity drum, Silicon Valley chiefs decide not to turn up – Chief executives from four major technology companies will not attend a cybersecurity summit in California on Friday, despite being invited long ahead of time.

Instead, senior security staffers from the invited companies, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, will go in their boss’ places.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook did accept the invitation, however, along with others, notably Mastercard’s Ajay Banga and Symantec’s Michael Brown.

Speculation is rife as to why Marissa Mayer, Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, Satya Nadella, and Mark Zuckerberg declined the invitation to attend the cybersecurity summit at Stanford University.

U.S. Drops to 49th in World Press Freedom Rankings, Worst Since Obama Became President – Each year, Reporters Without Borders issues a worldwide ranking of nations based on the extent to which they protect or abridge press freedom. The group’s 2015 ranking was released this morning, and the United States is ranked 49th.

That is the lowest ranking ever during the Obama presidency, and the second-lowest ranking for the U.S. since the rankings began in 2002 (in 2006, under Bush, the U.S. was ranked 53rd). The countries immediately ahead of the U.S. are Malta, Niger, Burkino Faso, El Salvador, Tonga, Chile and Botswana.

Proposed bill limits reach of US search warrants on overseas servers – The Obama administration says that companies operating in the US must comply with US search warrants for data when that data is stored on overseas servers.

It’s a longstanding position of global supremacy, and one that would have to change if legislation proposed Thursday becomes law.

The legislation, the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad (PDF), is directed at a federal court’s July ruling requiring Microsoft to turn over e-mails stored on its Irish servers to assist a Department of Justice drug investigation.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the measure he is co-sponsoring would “promote international comity and law enforcement cooperation.” Microsoft said the legislation was “common sense” and a “very important step.”

The bill would require companies based in the US to turn over data stored on its overseas servers only if the warrant targets a “US person.” The legislation does not alter the law requiring US industry—when presented with a warrant—to hand over data stored on US servers no matter the target’s nationality.

The measure also requires a court to modify or vacate a warrant if a company makes a motion to the court and the court finds that the warrant would require the provider to violate the laws of a foreign country.

Lawmakers introduce two bills to protect email privacy – A long-standing effort to extend privacy protections to email and other data in the cloud got new life Thursday when U.S. lawmakers introduced not one, but two bills to reform the country’s electronic privacy laws.

Both the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, called the LEADS Act, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Amendments Act would require law enforcement agencies to get court-ordered warrants to search data that’s been stored on Web-based or cloud-based services for more than 180 days.

Under the 29-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act [ECPA], law enforcement agencies do not need a court-ordered warrant to search unopened e-mail stored with a vendor for longer than 180 days, although they do need court approval to access unopened e-mail less than 180 days old.

Several tech vendors and digital rights groups have been pushing for ECPA reform since early 2010, but Congress has failed to act. In an era of cloud computing, it doesn’t make sense for data stored past six months to have fewer legal protections than other personal data, backers of ECPA reform say.

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