Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – June 17, 2015

10 Apps That Will Help You Survive the Summer;  Portal Lets You Quickly Transfer Big Files From PC To Phone;  Use Skype straight from the web–beta goes worldwide;  Facebook launches Moments: Makes privately sharing photos quick and easy;  Twitter’s auto-playing videos have arrived;  Cinnamon 2.6 – a Linux desktop for Windows XP refugees;  23 Hidden Chrome Features That Will Make Your Life Easier;  Box Integrates Into Office Online;  8 Cool Tricks for Google Hangouts;  There’s finally an official Raspberry Pi case;  The 5 Best Modern Video Game Remakes;  BitTorrent Shoot shares media across mobile devices in a snap;  FAQ: How Microsoft will update Windows 10;  Hack of cloud-based LastPass exposes hashed master passwords;  Teen shot dead after using app to track lost cell phone;  Retailers want to be able to scan your face without your permission;  How to use enterprise Wi-Fi security in SMBs;  Google Play Prepaid Vouchers Are Now Available In India;  33 must-see PC games revealed at E3 2015;  Researchers create engine powered by water evaporation;  RAMDisk (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

LastPass hack reinforces importance of using multi-factor authentication – Everything that’s important to you online depends on your willingness to use multifactor authentication. If you’re not sure what that means or how to do it, read this article right now.

Facebook launches Moments: Makes privately sharing photos quick and easy – As the summer kicks in gear, people are capturing moments with their smartphone cameras. With the new Moments app you can now quickly and easily share your memories with family and friends.

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(Image: Facebook)

Use Skype straight from the web–beta goes worldwide – Skype just became easier to access, around the world. As an alternative to downloading the Skype app or program, users can turn to their browsers for their communication needs using Skype for Web (beta). The web version isn’t just for checking instant messages. It’s designed to provide the same video and phone calls associated with the full app. As we noted when the beta first launched stateside, users will still have to install a plug-in before initially using the site, but that seems to be only a small hurdle.

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10 Apps That Will Help You Survive the Summer – Use your smartphone to help you and your family make the most of the season.

Portal Lets You Quickly Transfer Big Files From PC To Phone – Pushbullet, the company that makes a handy utility that moves notifications, links and files between devices, is out today with a new app called Portal, which focuses on file transfer alone. Launching first on Android where it’s able to more deeply integrate with the OS, Portal is designed to make it easier to move files – even large files – between your computer and your Android phone. To get started, you first download the Portal app from Google Play, then visit portal.pushbullet.com. Using the Android app, you’ll then scan a QR code that displays on the website in order to connect the two devices. Afterward, you simply drag a file to your web browser and it’s transferred to your phone.

BitTorrent Shoot shares media across mobile devices in a snap – BitTorrent has released a new app to share byte-heavy content like long videos and batches of photos between various mobile devices without ever having to make a detour at the cloud. Just like all things BitTorrent, this app is all about preserving your privacy. Content will go directly between mobile devices, bypassing the cloud entirely to keep anything shared beyond the reach of prying eyes (or a police warrant). The interface is incredibly simple. Choose to send files from your mobile device and Shoot creates a convenient QR code, granting recipients access with a quick scan. The service will run users a one-time fee of $1.99. BitTorrent is letting people try Shoot before they buy it. You can send three batches of photos or videos before buying Shoot. Receivers never have to pay for the service; they simply need the app installed on their mobile device.

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Twitter’s auto-playing videos have arrived – The auto-playing video. It’s okay if you don’t like it. Others feel the same way, so you’re not alone. The problem is that despite the large number of people who detest videos that start playing without permission, social networks are launching them anyway. Twitter’s auto-playing videos are now upon us, at least if you’re using iOS of the web (if you’re not, your day of reckoning is inbound). Twitter announced the feature’s arrival in a statement today, calling it a “new standard for viewability.”

Microsoft will finally make all Bing searches encrypted by default this summer – Microsoft has announced that starting this summer, all searches on Bing will be encrypted which will give users another layer of protection on the web but they are a bit late to the party.

Cinnamon 2.6 – a Linux desktop for Windows XP refugees – Cinnamon is best known as one of the two default desktops for Linux Mint, which is fast approaching its next major update. Mint 17.2 will include the brand new Cinnamon 2.6, just released, when delivered later this year. So far, so standard – only Cinnamon is no longer just a Linux Mint desktop. Cinnamon is now available directly as part of Debian 8 and Fedora 22. Naturally, Cinnamon will work with many other distros as well, but its inclusion in the default installers for big names such as Debian and Fedora marks a turning point for Cinnamon: this really is no longer just an “alternative” desktop for a single distro.

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Multiple panels, individually configured, in the new Cinnamon

23 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 23 hidden tricks hidden inside Chrome that you really need to be using.

How to create an insane multiple monitor setup with three, four, or more displays – The more displays your computer has, the better—but there are considerations to keep in mind as you move into extreme multi-monitor setups for enhanced productivity and gaming.

There’s finally an official Raspberry Pi case – Ever since the Raspberry Pi went on sale, people have been whipping up amazing little cases for them. Now, three years after the Model A was born, they’re finally making an official case. A sort of plastic Pi crust, if you will. How much does the official Pi case sell for? It’s every bit as big a bargain as the tiny computer it’s meant to protect. They’re going for £7 from the Foundation’s swag shop, which is just under $10 at today’s exchange rate. You’ll be able to order them from Raspberry Pi distribution partners around the globe soon, too.

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Box Integrates Into Office Online As The Cloud Company’s Bromance With Microsoft Continues – Box has integrated into Microsoft’s Office Online product, burrowing the enterprise file storage and sharing company deeper into the latter firm’s cloud productivity offering. Previously, Box integrated into Microsoft’s Office 365 product.  The integration allows users to open files from Box into Office Online, and have changes made to the document, or spreadsheet sync back to Box. Also coming later is a ‘share’ feature that will mimic how Box currently manages the function.

8 Cool Tricks for Google Hangouts You (Probably) Didn’t Know Existed – While mobile is most certainly what Google’s devs have in mind for Hangout’s future, let’s not neglect some of the cool things you can do in the desktop version right now. Check out our list of little-known treasures. There are definitely some cool things you didn’t know about.

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4) Video Chat

Google Play Prepaid Vouchers Are Now Available In India For Users Without Credit Cards – India is one of Android’s fastest-growing markets, but its extremely low credit card penetration rate is a challenge for Google as it goes after sweet, sweet app revenue. The tech giant is taking steps to make it easier for people to purchase from Google Play, however, and the latest is the launch of prepaid voucher cards. Google Play’s prepaid vouchers can be used to purchase any kind of digital content in the store, including apps, movies, and books.

Google yanks Chrome’s new visual bookmarks manager – Chrome will roll back to the older, tree-style version of the bookmarks manager. Google says it is not giving up and will continue to search for ways to improve Chrome’s native bookmark experience. For anyone who likes the new bookmark manager, Google will keep it as an extension in the Chrome Web Store.

FAQ: How Microsoft will update Windows 10 – Although Microsoft remains tight-lipped about some of the details of how it plans to keep Windows 10 up to date, enough information has surfaced for a fairly clear picture of the process.

Security:

Hack of cloud-based LastPass exposes hashed master passwords – LastPass officials warned Monday that attackers have compromised servers that run the company’s password management service and made off with cryptographically protected passwords and other sensitive user data. It was the second breach notification regarding the service in the past four years. In all, the unknown attackers obtained hashed user passwords, cryptographic salts, password reminders, and e-mail addresses, LastPass CEO Joe Siegrist wrote in a blog post. It emphasized that there was no evidence the attackers were able to open cryptographically locked user vaults where plain-text passwords are stored. That’s because the master passwords that unlock those vaults were protected using an extremely slow hashing mechanism that requires large amounts of computing power to work.

Pointing up   For years I’ve cautioned against the use of password managers – easy, convenient, and decidedly unsafe.

The following are 2 past articles on this issue.

Should You Forget About Password Safes and Write Down Your Passwords?

Be Safe – Write Down Your Passwords

SwiftKey hack can remotely take over Samsung mobile devices – Android users on Samsung mobile devices could be vulnerable to a new type of security hack. The security flaw was discovered by Ryan Welton from NowSecure. He detailed his findings at the Blackhat Security Summit in London. The hackable exploit arises from the pre-installed SwiftKey keyboard. As Swiftkey searches for updates to its language packs over unencrypted lines, via plain text, it is susceptible to malicious security apps from any spoofed proxy server. Using this as a keyhole, Welton could scale up the attack to basically take over a vulnerable mobile device while the user remains unaware. The bug affects over 600 million Samsung users, including those using the Galaxy S6.

Teen shot dead after using app to track lost cell phone – A Canadian teen leaves his phone in a cab. He tracks it down to three men in a car. They allegedly refused to give him the phone back. He is then shot dead. Just as you have to be careful when meeting people who might be selling phones on Craigslist, you have to gauge the situation if you choose to trace your lost or stolen phone. If there’s the remotest potential of danger, call the police.

Retailers want to be able to scan your face without your permission – After more than a year of discussions, all nine privacy advocates have stormed out of a government-organized “multi-stakeholder process” to sort out details around the best practices for facial recognition technology. The sticking point was that corporations apparently refused to concede that there was any scenario during which a person’s consent to scan their face was needed.

As the privacy group wrote in a statement released late Monday evening:

At a base minimum, people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that companies they’ve never heard of are tracking their every movement—and identifying them by name—using facial recognition technology. Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise. The position that companies never need to ask permission to use biometric identification is at odds with consumer expectations, current industry practices, as well as existing state law.

How to use enterprise Wi-Fi security in SMBs – No matter what size your business, using WPA2 security is a good first step to protecting your Wi-Fi network. Don’t blow it by using the standard’s not-so-secure PSK mode.

Chinese snoops try tracking VPN users with fiendish JSONP trickery – Snoops are exploiting vulnerabilities in China’s most frequented websites to target individuals accessing web content which state censors have deemed hostile. The whole multi-stage attack relies on a JavaScript-related vulnerability, known as JSONP, first publicised in 2013. Privacy is compromised when surfers browse sensitive websites while logged into another mainstream website, even in a different tab or window. The upshot is that Chinese surfers who visit Baidu, for example, at the same time as visiting targeted non-government organisation, Uyghur and Islamic websites are exposing their surfing habits even if they are using a VPN. The snooping has been going on since at least October 2013, with the most recent attack discovered only a few days ago, reports security tools firm AlienVault.

Company News:

Amazon Uber-for-Prime crowd delivery rumored – Amazon is developing an “Uber for deliveries” known internally as On My Way, insiders say, hoping to bypass traditional methods with citizen couriers. The project would see Amazon build a footprint in physical stores, though only to temporarily gather order boxes so that a network of contract staff could pick them up and deliver them to customers. The goal, it’s said, is to trim Amazon’s growing costs related to getting orders to shoppers, as well as alleviating bottlenecks at high-demand periods such as Christmas.

Microsoft Opens A Branded Store On Indian E-Commerce Platform Snapdeal – Microsoft has launched its own branded store on Snapdeal, one of India’s top e-commerce sites, as it aims to grow its share of the country’s fast-growing mobile market. Microsoft already sells product via Amazon India, but its store on Snapdeal will be much like a mirror of its own site, complete with “exclusive products [and] offers.”

Apple Taps MobileIron To Help It Deploy iPad Apps Into The Enterprise – Apple is working with mobile device management shop MobileIron to help deploy applications into the enterprise. The collaborative effort is part of a larger enterprise push by Apple that has it working with IBM and a number of other firms that sell products into the enterprise.

Amazon to call on US Congress for fewer drone restrictions – Amazon on Wednesday will call on the U.S. Congress to embrace automated drone flights and come up with a set of simple, nationwide regulations that will allow its proposed Prime Air service to get off the ground. The company is one of several that is lobbying U.S. lawmakers hard to accept looser regulations for drone flights than those proposed recently by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Games and Entertainment:

33 must-see PC games revealed at E3 2015 – Between all the console talk and publishers rushing to reveal their hot new games ahead of the E3 press crunch, the annual “Day Zero” press conferences held by gaming’s biggest publishers before E3’s doors officially open don’t hold quite as much luster as they used to. But don’t let that dissuade you! Day Zero is chock full of info about the biggest games barreling down the pipeline in the coming months, and now that all the major consoles pack AMD hardware, the vast majority of those blockbusters are destined to grace PCs, too—even if publishers typically only hype up the console versions at E3. From Fallout 4 to Doom to Star Wars Battlefront—and plenty more in between—here are the big-name games you can expect to play on your computer soon.

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Super Mario Maker Will Let You Build Your Own Mario Levels This September – Nintendo is letting players take control of its Mario platform game building tools with Super Mario Maker, and now we know when it’ll be available: September 11, 2015. The “game” allows people to create their own levels in either Super Mario Bros 8-bit graphics, or more modern 3D style (albeit with the same mechanics underneath), and then play them instantly.

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National Geographic and Morgan Freeman helm ‘The Story of God’ TV series – National Geographic’s newest undertaking is a world away from its coverage of the animal kingdom. In partnership with Revelations Entertainment, its latest project is The Story of God. The series will be on air next year on The National Geographic Channel, and will see a global release in 171 countries in 45 different languages. Lending heavenly narration skills to the series is Morgan Freeman. At this time, it’s unclear whether he will be present in voice or figure as well. Either way, attaching his name was a smart move on Nat Geo’s part.

The 5 Best Modern Video Game Remakes – With a Final Fantasy VII remake coming, we look at other franchises that got the console treatment. Perhaps no game has more fans waiting for a remake than the legendary Final Fantasy VII from 1997. And they got their wish last night, when Square Enix announced it will be completely remaking it, starting with a PlayStation 4 version. To celebrate, let’s look back a few of the best video game remakes from the last couple of decades. If FFVII turns out half as good as these, fans will rejoice.

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With a Final Fantasy VII remake coming, we look at other franchises that got the console treatment.

New Xbox One dashboard puts Cortana on call – All your base is belong to Cortana! Whether it be your smartphone, your tablet, or your PC, Microsoft’s personal assistant is there to serve your every voiced need. And now, she’s on the Xbox One too! Microsoft has just demoed the latest dashboard experience and it showed off the new and improved interface. While things are arguably better for hunting down friends and remembering what game you last played, one of the most interesting new features is probably one that you hardly expected: Cortana.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Stat nerds and reality clash in Donald Trump candidacy – Technically Incorrect: The boffins declare that the “Celebrity Apprentice” host is the worst presidential candidate since data was collected. Trump insists he’s the greatest.

Researchers create engine powered by water evaporation – A Columbia University team of researchers have created what is said to be the first ever engine that is driven by evaporation. The engine, in this case, is small and made of plastic and able to power LED lights and similar mild tasks when exposed to a plain puddle of water. The engine is being hailed as a scientific breakthrough, and it could in the future prove to be an inexpensive and effective way to generate useable amounts of energy from commonly found bodies of water.

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Get excited for next month’s Pluto flyby with this beautiful teaser – The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006, and is currently hurtling toward Pluto at more than 35,000mph (nearly 60,000 km/h). It’s set to pass the giant ball of rock and ice on July 14th, and when it does it will give us the first real glimpse ever seen of the former planet. In anticipation of that historic moment, the National Space Society commissioned this beautiful video teaser (conveniently called New Horizons) by the man behind Wanderers, the space-themed short film that went viral late last year. Where Wanderers was all about the places our species might someday go, New Horizons is all about paying homage to the exploration we’ve already accomplished at a distance.

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The creation of the modern laptop – An in-depth look at lithium-ion batteries, industrial design, Moore’s law, and more. Pick up your laptop. Actually, scratch that—read this paragraph first, then pick up your laptop. You are holding one of the most advanced machines ever built in the history of humanity. It is the result of trillions of hours of R&D over tens of thousands of years. It contains so many advanced components that there isn’t a single person on the planet who knows how to make the entire thing from scratch. It is perhaps surprising to think of your laptop as the pinnacle of human endeavour, but that doesn’t make it any less true: we are living in the information age, after all, and our tool for working with that information is the computer.

This Range Rover Prototype Can Be Driven With A Smartphone App – There are remote control cars and then there are Remote Control Cars. This is the latter of the two. Range Rover UK developed a prototype system that allows a Range Rover Sport to be controlled remotely through a smartphone app. And not just the door locks. The vehicle can be driven from the app.

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Self-awareness (probably) isn’t unique to humans – You’ve likely heard it said that humans are distinguished by their self-awareness, but researchers are saying that such statements might be bull. According to recent research, humans likely aren’t the only creatures on this planet to possess self-awareness, with some animals possessing at least a primitive level of awareness of self. The key is mental simulation of an environment and the need for at least a low level of self awareness to do that, and signs that some animals are capable of such environmental simulation.

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The future of the Apple Watch: Three big questions – While the Apple Watch has generated tons of interest and become the world’s best-selling smartwatch, it’s still facing big questions in the long term. Here are the three biggest.

Something to think about:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

–      Leonardo da Vinci

Today’s Free Downloads:

Advanced SystemCare 8 Free – Advanced SystemCare 8 Free takes a one-click approach to protect, repair, clean, and optimize your PC. With over 150 MILLION downloads worldwide, this fantastic, award-winning, free PC repair software is a “must-have” tool for your computer. It’s easy to use and 100% safe with no adware, spyware, or viruses.

Why waste money on expensive “registry cleaners” to fix your PC when Advanced SystemCare Free can repair, tune up, and maintain it for you – for FREE!

RAMDisk – RAMDisk is Freeware (up to 4GB disk size). It creates a virtual RAM drive, or block of memory, which your computer treats as if it were a disk drive. By storing files and programs into memory, you can speed up internet load times and disk-to-disk activities, accelerate databases and reduce compile times. Save and load features allow RAMDisk to appear as persistent storage, even through reboots.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden’s lawyer slams Times story claiming leaks ‘betrayed’ British spies – A Sunday Times article stating that British spies had been “betrayed” to Russian and Chinese intelligence services as a result of Edward Snowden’s mass-surveillance revelations to the press is “utter nonsense,” claims the whistleblower’s lawyer.

Robert Tibbo could not be more straightforward. “There was no possibility of interception. Zero,” says the Canadian lawyer from Montreal who has represented Edward Snowden in Hong Kong since June of 2013. That was when the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor leaked classified documents on America’s mass surveillance programs to members of the press. Mr. Tibbo’s client came under pressure after British sources revealed last weekend that spies were pulled out of operations because China and Russia have cracked Mr. Snowden’s files.

“He left this place [Hong Kong] with no data on him”, Mr. Tibbo claimed in a telephone interview from Hong Kong on Monday. He was one of the only two people, along with solicitor Jonathan Man, who had any knowledge of Mr. Snowden’s whereabouts in the city at the time. In an interview Mr. Tibbo was with Mr. Snowden when the whistleblower left Hong Kong for Russia.

“There was no data in a cloud. He passed the data on to the journalists and that was it. Any actual copy he had with him was destroyed [before he left Hong Kong], precisely to avoid it from being seized or intercepted. I was a witness to all of that. “The Sunday Times, a British newspaper owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, published a story last weekend claiming that Britain was forced to “pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries” as a result of China and Russia having cracked the “top secret cache of files stolen” by Edward Snowden. The article cited only anonymous sources identified as coming from Downing Street, the Home Office and security services.

The Sunday Times sends DMCA notice to critics of Snowden hacking story – The Sunday Times dropped a bombshell this weekend, reporting that the top secret files leaked by Edward Snowden have been obtained by the Russian and Chinese governments. The story claimed Western intelligence agencies were “forced into rescue operations” to mitigate the damage, and one UK government source claimed that Snowden had “blood on his hands.”

It would be a major blow to Snowden and the journalists who worked with him—if it were true. But the bold claims started falling apart shortly after it was published this weekend. The story is behind a paywall but available elsewhere. It’s based entirely on anonymous British officials and contains some glaring inaccuracies.

Snowden confidante Glenn Greenwald immediately attacked it as “journalism at its worst.” Greenwald is a predictable critic, to be sure, but Times reporter Tom Harper was later questioned about his story on CNN and admitted he’s been unable to check out any of the far-reaching claims told to him by government sources. The reporter answered one question after another with some version of “I don’t know,” admitting he has no idea how any “hack” took place, how or when any foreign governments got the files, or if the files were encrypted at all. Harper simply maintained that the Snowden hacking story was the “official position of the British government.”

This morning, lawyers at Times Newspapers took a step to limit Greenwald’s criticism, sending a notice telling The Intercept that Greenwald’s story, which included a low-res image of the Times’ front page, violates their copyright. The Intercept quickly published the takedown notice, and on Twitter Greenwald made clear that his publication won’t be deleting his copy of the Times’ “humiliating headline.”

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EFF, ACLU appeal license plate reader case to California Supreme Court – Two privacy activist groups formally appealed on Tuesday to the California Supreme Court, in their attempt to compel two Southern California law enforcement agencies to release one week’s worth of license plate reader data.

In May 2013, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) had sued the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to gain access to the data as a way to better understand this surveillance technology. The groups lost in 2014 at the lower court level and last month at the appellate court.

Both agencies, like many others nationwide, use license plate readers (LPRs, or ALPRs) to scan cars and compare them at incredible speeds to a “hot list” of stolen or wanted vehicles. In some cases, that data is kept for weeks, months, or even years. Handing over such a large volume of records by a California law enforcement agency is not without precedent.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – June 15, 2015

Net neutrality rules go into effect: what happens now;  Create dynamic 3D animated avatars with your smartphone;  How to get started with Linux: A beginner’s guide;  Windows 10: The only major OS still trying to squeeze a buck from consumers;  Google’s Free App of the Week Promo Focuses on Kids;  Consumer group says Apple’s iPads are slower than a Surface Pro 3 or a $150 Android tablet;  Five unusual Android launchers to spruce up your phone;  How to take better photos in low light;  The latest joy: Selfies with police officers giving you a ticket;  How MajorGeeks Protects You and Why We Do What We Do;  Even with a VPN, open Wi-Fi exposes users;  Staying safe on public Wi-Fi;  This Tech Stock Is Up 4200% in Less Than 2 Months;  Playing games on the PC is making a comeback;  7 Steam Summer Sale Tips Every Gamer Should Know;  Online-Only Shows You Need to Watch Now;  Twitter tells us in which state people hate their jobs the most.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Net neutrality rules go into effect: what happens now – The rules prohibit broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Internet traffic and from charging website owners and providers of Web-based services for prioritized traffic. The rules also reclassify broadband from a lightly regulated information service to a more heavily regulated telecom-style service, although the FCC voted to exempt broadband providers from many of those common-carrier rules. Here are four things to watch for as the rules go into effect and the lawsuits go forward:

Texas teacher fired for ‘black segregation’ Facebook post about McKinney video – An elementary-school teacher goes on Facebook to declare “blacks are the problem.” She is the second educator this week to be removed from her job for a Facebook posting.

Consumer group says Apple’s iPads are slower than a Surface Pro 3 or a $150 Android tablet – A consumer group conducted a tablet performance test in which Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 was 20% faster than the iPad Air 2, and the iPad mini 3 was beaten by a supermarket’s low-cost Android tablet.

Chrome Should Soon Be Easier On Your Mac’s Battery – Chrome already got a new feature that can disable crappy Flash ads and win you back some battery cycles, but there’s more in the pipeline. Per senior Chrome engineer Peter Kasting outlining future steps on Google+, we’re going to see changes to the way Chrome handles rendering of background tabs (i.e., the ones you aren’t immediately looking at), and eking out some minor but important gains in the CPU efficiency of searching with Google. There’s a lot more going on, most of which is designed to help Chrome match or approach CPU efficiency found in Safari.

Hidden Chrome on Android features will improve your mobile browsing – Chrome has a lot of hidden features, some of which take a bit more digging to find. Jack Wallen highlights four such features that will help improve your Chrome on Android experience.

Create dynamic 3D animated avatars with your smartphone – The researchers report that this technology “facilitates a range of new applications in computer animation and consumer-level online communication based on personalized avatars.” Indeed, imagine going into one of BioWare’s or Bethesda’s character creators and having the ability to upload your 3D face. No longer would gamers spend hours fine-tuning their avatar. The researchers were even able to show how an actor could manipulate multiple 3D facial renders in real-time.

The latest joy: Selfies with police officers giving you a ticket – In Sri Lanka, there’s a curious new selfie trend, one the world shouldn’t miss. And police say they like it.

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The selfie that apparently started it all. Dhada Selfie/Facebook screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Windows 10: The only major OS still trying to squeeze a buck from consumers – Putting a monetary obstacle in the way of people who want to jump to Windows 10 hampers Microsoft’s vision for a service-centric, cloud-connected future for Windows. Consumers also love getting stuff for free.

How to get started with Linux: A beginner’s guide – The world of Linux is ready to welcome you, with a shower of free open-source software you can use on any PC: hundreds of active Linux distributions, and dozens of different desktop environments you could run on them. It’s a far cry from the one-size-fits-all, this-is-just-what-comes-with-your-PC vision of Windows. Everything from software installation to hardware drivers works differently on Linux, though, which can be daunting. Take heart—you don’t even need to install Linux on your PC to get started. Here’s everything you need to know.

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Linux Mint’s system settings.

Google’s Free App of the Week Promo Focuses on Kids – According to reports, Google’s new free app giveaway is limited to a weekly timeframe—or “free app of the week,” if you prefer the traditional phrasing. And it’s not just any ol’ Android app that’s getting the special, cheaper treatment. The free app of the week promotion only seems to apply to apps within Google’s recently launched Family section of the Google Play store—at least, right now. It’s unclear whether Google will be branching the promotion out to additional categories, or whether this free app release promotion is just timed to take advantage of the new Family section’s launch.

Five unusual Android launchers to spruce up your phone – One of the benefits of Android’s openness is that many of its parts can be replaced by third party apps and services. One of those parts is the homescree and app launcher, the very first piece of software the user meets when using their smartphone. After the lock screen, of course. You might have heard of launchers like Nova, Apex, Go, or even Google’s own Google Now, but here are five more that you won’t usually read about in the news unless they have a major update or release.

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The seven “Prime Directives” of repairing and upgrading tech – Over the years I’ve built up a set of rules that I keep in mind when fixing things. I call them the “Prime Directives,” not because I’m a huge Star Trek fan, but because they’re important, and bad things tend to happen when I violate them.

Twitter Serving Up Ads Based on the Apps You Install – The tool “enables app advertisers to reach users based on the categories of apps they have installed on their device, or in which we think they have interest,” Twitter product manager Deepak Rao wrote in a blog post. “One of the biggest priorities for mobile app marketers is to reach the people who are most likely to use and love their apps. Today’s launch is the next step in our journey to help these advertisers connect with the right customers on Twitter – while providing users with the most relevant and useful ad content.” As Re/code noted, Twitter first announced plans for this in November, and is rolling it out now.

How to take better photos in low light – Low-light photography doesn’t always mean taking photos at night. There are plenty of situations where your eyes may be able to adjust to lower light easily, such as in a restaurant, but your camera has trouble seeing as well as you do. Wherever you may be, taking images in low light doesn’t have to be tricky. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making photos in challenging lighting conditions.

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The original image on the left lost a lot of detail in the shadows. By shooting raw, you can recover much of this lost detail with a simple slider and end up with the photo on the right. Lexy Savvides/CNET

Facebook’s SSD findings: Failure, fatigue and the data center – ​SSDs revolutionized data storage, even though we know little about how well they work. Now researchers at Facebook and Carnegie-Mellon share millions of hours of SSD experience

Security:

How MajorGeeks Protects You and Why We Do What We Do – There have been some articles written lately about download sites and we’d like to take a minute to respond to some of what we have been reading. Sites like HowToGeek wrote an article here that was actually very kind to MajorGeeks considering what and who we are up against. So, let us fill you in on how things work differently at MajorGeeks.

Pointing up    MajorGeeks has been my recommended download site for many years precisely because of the issues raised in this article.

US officials reveal second massive hack: security clearance forms grabbed – The recent hack of government data, at least according to those who know of the matter, is far worse than previously revealed. At least 4 million people were comprised, it was originally reported, but a recent letter to the OPM indicated that every single federal employee might have had some data stolen, including former federal workers. Now a second hack has been disclosed by sources, and it is said to have involved the theft of data related to intelligence employees and military personnel.

Even with a VPN, open Wi-Fi exposes users – By now, any sentient IT person knows the perils of open Wi-Fi. Those free connections in cafes and hotels don’t encrypt network traffic, so others on the network can read your traffic and possibly hijack your sessions. But one of the main solutions to this problem has a hole in it that isn’t widely appreciated. This gap in coverage may only be a matter of seconds, but that’s enough to expose valuable information like logon credentials. Try running a network monitoring tool like Microsoft’s TCPView for Windows or Little Snitch for Mac before you establish your Internet connection and see what happens in those first few seconds. The information may be protected by encryption, but it can carry details about your system configuration that could be used to identify it—or provide clues for an attacker.

Staying safe on public Wi-Fi – Stuck without a data connection on the road? Free public Wi-Fi is one of those little luxuries that can make travelling easier, but you do need to exercise caution in how you use it. Here are some tips on what to look out for when using public Wi-Fi, whether you use a laptop, smartphone or tablet.

US Navy is looking to buy zero-day and other exploits online – It’s no secret that security researchers and cyber criminals often buy and sell exploits online. Researchers usually sell their findings back to companies in bug-bounty programs, while criminals usually sell their knowledge to other criminals who can then exploit the unpatched vulnerability. But there’s also a third kind of exploit buyer out there, and that’s governments, who use these exploits for their own cyber-attacks. That’s seemingly the case here, where the US Navy actually posted an ad saying they were buying exploits found in popular software.

Company News:

This Tech Stock Is Up 4200% in Less Than 2 Months – The stock of a Chinese technology company has risen just over 4,200% since it went public just 56 days ago. The amazing run, Bloomberg notes, is equivalent to the past 11 years of gains in Apple’s shares. It also gives the company, Beijing Baofeng Technology Co., an almost unbelievable valuation of 715 times earnings. That’s 46 times Apple’s P/E of 15. Janus Capital’s Bill Gross, a legendary bond investor, recently said that the technology-heavy Shenzhen market, where Beijing Baofeng is listed, would be a great trade for short-sellers, who bet that shares will go down.

Rough sailing ahead for Twitter after CEO’s departure – Can Twitter finally give Wall Street what it wants now that its embattled CEO Dick Costolo is stepping aside after months of disappointing investors? While tech’s other heavy hitters, including Facebook — with nearly a billion more users than Twitter — and Google, constantly tinker to improve their products, Twitter ‘s momentum has stalled, some analysts believe.

After years of silence, Amazon releases first transparency report – Despite it being known best for its online retail business, its cloud services power millions of apps, sites, and services around the world. But the news couldn’t come soon enough. Amazon is the last major technology company in the Fortune 500 to disclose how many times governments have come knocking on its door, demanding customer and user data. Amazon, known by insiders for being notoriously secretive, was at no point under a legal obligation to report its numbers, but had faced mounting pressure in the face of transparency reports becoming an industry norm. Schmidt said the report, which covers the six months starting January 1 and ending May 31, will be released biannually.

By the numbers:

Amazon received 813 subpoenas, of which it fully complied with 66 percent;

Amazon received 35 search warrants, of which it fully complied with just over half;

Out of the other 13 other court orders it received, Amazon fully complied with just four;

Amazon received 132 foreign requests, of which it fully complied with 82 percent;

Amazon complied with the one removal orders (like user data) it received

Amazon disclosed that it had received between zero and 249 national security requests, such as a court order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Alibaba to launch Netflix-like streaming service in China – Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba has announced its plans to create its own media streaming platform. Alibaba will be calling the new platform TBO, Tmall Box Office. TBO will run licensed domestic content from China was well as foreign content. The service even has plans to create its own in-house programs, as Netflix did with House of Cards. Competition is heating up as Chinese companies are in a bit of a spending war with each other, trying to gain market share in the emerging market of media streaming technology.

This Country Is Logging Almost 1M Uber Trips Per Day – Uber has expanded rapidly in recent years, but like many tech companies, its main focus in the years to come will be China, according to a leaked letter from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to investors. Uber is available in 11 Chinese cities, which cover about 14 million people who are taking almost 1 million trips per day.

Uber to invest over $1B in China, expand to 50 more cities – In a letter to investors, CEO Travis Kalanick calls the ride-hailing service’s growth in the country “remarkable and unprecedented.”

With payroll in arrears, online antivirus seller shuts doors – The sudden shutdown of a computer tech support call center has left some of its employees wondering if they will be paid. EZ Tech Support, based in Portland, Oregon, took calls from people who had advertising software installed on their computers that warned of possible security and performance problems. The programs implored people to call the company’s number, which was displayed amid warnings.

Amazon to have select Prime items shipped from merchants – If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you may find many more items eligible for the service’s free two-day shipping option in the near future. That’s because the internet retailing giant is testing a program that has Prime items shipped directly from the independent merchants selling who sell them. Normally, only items sold directly by Amazon, or merchants’ items that are stored in Amazon’s warehouses, are eligible for the Prime two-day shipping option. This change benefit both customers and sellers.

Games and Entertainment:

Playing games on the PC is making a comeback – Video game consoles have long dominated the video game industry, offering a seemingly cheaper and more consistent experience. But not for long.

7 Steam Summer Sale Tips Every Gamer Should Know – It’s that time of year again. The Steam Summer Sale is back, and that means more than a week of constantly reloading the Steam store to see what games you can pick up for a few bucks each. It’s easy to go nuts during the sale, so here are some tips on how to get the most during the event.

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Look out, Twitch! YouTube Gaming is coming this summer – Launching this summer in the US and UK, gaming.youtube.com will be a portal just for games—bascially the “Twitch” portion of YouTube. There will be game pages for “over 25,000″ titles showing info about the games and a list of streamers playing them. There will also be channel pages for streaming personalities and companies. Searches from gaming.youtube.com will be sectioned off from the rest of the site, too—YouTube’s blog post (which we received an advance copy of) says that “typing ‘call’ will show you Call of Duty and not Call Me Maybe.” And of course, there’s also chat.

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Fallout 4, Dishonored 2, Doom—Bethesda opens up with both barrels – We knew in advance that we’d be hearing more about Fallout 4 and Doom from Bethesda at their “E3 showcase” Sunday evening, but the best laid plans of mice and mutants gang aft agley—a brief technical mix-up the day before also told us that we’d be getting a look at Dishonored 2 as well. But there didn’t need to be any surprises—those three AAA games themselves were enough to warm any gamer’s heart. Especially if you like Fallout.

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Watch all the new footage of Doom from E3 – E3 2015 got off to a chainsaw-intensive start Sunday when Bethesda showed tons of footage from Doom, its forthcoming sequel to the genre-defining franchise. We took a long look of the single-player campaign that showed off many of the game’s best-loved weapons, including the shotgun, the rocket launcher, and (of course) the chainsaw. We also saw a glimpse of the multi-player campaign, which players will be able to mod heavily using a new tool called Snapmap. Check it out:

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The new Fallout mobile game, Fallout Shelter, is available right now – The creators of Fallout 4 have released a new mobile game associated with the Fallout franchise. In Fallout Shelter, you make your own nuclear shelter, or vault. As the overseer of said vault, you will then need to maintain the underground base, keeping your residents happy. The game has a 2D-animation look playing off the Pip-Boy characters of the Fallout series. The game looks like a cross between SimTower and the base management system in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The game is free on iOS tonight. It won’t have paywall timers and won’t require an internet connection to play.

Online-Only Shows You Need to Watch Now – Netflix isn’t alone in creating great TV that doesn’t require rabbit ears, cable (beyond the modem), or hell, even an actual TV. Streaming video has quickly become a natural setting for scripted drama and comedy. With Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Yahoo Screen, and more, you can watch at your own pace, or binge watch all at once.  The bottom line? You don’t need a TV to watch quality scripted television.

Off Topic (Sort of):

In the Future, Employees Won’t Exist – Contract work is becoming the new normal. Consider Uber: The ride-sharing startup has 160,000 contractors, but just 2,000 employees. That’s an astonishing ratio of 80 to 1. And when it comes to a focus on contract labor, Uber isn’t alone. Handy, Eaze and Luxe are just a few of the latest entrants into the “1099 Economy.” Though they get the most attention, it’s not just on-demand companies that employ significant contract workforces. Microsoft has nearly two-thirds as many contractors as full-time employees. Four trends are converging to make contracting more attractive for both employers and workers, and reshaping how businesses and employees look at the traditional full-time model.

Twitter tells us in which state people hate their jobs the most – Technically Incorrect: An analysis of an entire year’s tweets shows that there’s a geographical split between those who say they like their work and those who say they don’t.

Parrot unveils 13 new minidrones, including a drone-powered boat – Drones aren’t always huge and hugely expensive. Parrot has been selling a line of minidrones for the last few years, and today it has revealed 13 new ones. That’s not 13 individual types of drone, but 13 “versions” of three different types. There are new flying and rolling drones, as well as one that takes to the waves for the first time.

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1980s Amiga has been running the AC and heat in 19 schools for 30 years – The Grand Rapids Public School district took a big step into the future back in the 1980s when it used money from an energy bond to purchase a Commodore Amiga computer. The Amiga, which replaced a computer the size of a refrigerator, was set up to control heat and air conditioning at the district’s 19 schools. It has been doing that job tirelessly for the last 30 years. How long do you think you could keep a modern laptop working? Four or five years? Maybe? The Amiga uses an unusual 1200-bit modem and a wireless radio signal to communicate with the 19 buildings.

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Talk techie to me: RealDoll wants to make sex dolls that move, chat – RealDoll is reportedly working with robotics experts to make a more lifelike and unintentionally creepier love doll. Hopefully it won’t dump you for the Roomba.

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Something to think about:

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

–      Mark Twain

Today’s Free Downloads:

RogueKiller 

MajorGeek says: We don’t really need a review here. If you’re a tech, you know what this tool does and it’s already in your toolbox. For the rest of you, Roguekiller is a popular, effective tool to remove some stubborn malware but be warned; you better know what you’re doing. While a lot of more well-known tools will simply scan and delete for you, this tool will show you everything it finds that is a possible problem. You need to know what to remove and what not to remove. In the second screenshot below you will see where it found 7 potential PUP’s on a clean install of Windows 7. If someone told you to download this and you’re not a knowledgeable computer tech, run. Run as fast as you can and get a new ‘friend’. A program like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware would serve you better. I’m not knocking RogueKiller, it’s excellent; in the right hands. If you don’t believe me, simply read the comments below.

RogueKiller is an anti-malware program written in C++ and able to detect and remove generic malwares and some advanced threats such as rootkits, rogues, worms…

Based on generic ways to find malwares by their behaviour (heuristics), on classic anti-malware analysis (signature finding) and on undocumented hacks, RogueKiller can find/remove most of the basic malwares (rogues, trojans, …) and some advanced threats like ZeroAccess or TDSS that behave more like rootkits.

Here’s a little summary of what RogueKiller is able to do:

Kill malicious processes

Stop malicious services

Unload malicious DLLs from processes

Find/Kill malicious hidden processes

Find and remove malicious autostart entries, including :

1: Registry keys (RUN/RUNONCE, …)

2: Tasks Scheduler (1.0/2.0)

3: Startup folders

Find and remove registry hijacks, including :

1: Shell / Load entries

2: Extension association hijacks

3: DLL hijacks

4: Many, many others …

Read / Fix DNS Hijacks (DNS Fix button)

Read / Fix Proxy Hijacks (Proxy Fix button)

Read / Fix Hosts Hijacks (Hosts Fix button)

Restore shortcuts / files hidden by rogues of type “Fake HDD“

Read / Fix malicious Master Boot Record (MBR), even hidden behind rootkit

List / Fix SSDT – Shadow SSDT – IRP Hooks (Even with inline hooks)

Find and restore system files patched / faked by a rootkit

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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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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Russia and China cracked Snowden’s files, identified U.S., UK spies – Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies have reportedly decrypted files of former U.S. National Security Agency contractor and leaker Edward Snowden, and have identified British and U.S. secret agents.

MI6, the U.K.’s secret intelligence service, has withdrawn agents from overseas operations in hostile countries, according to a report in the Sunday Times of London, citing U.K. government officials and Western intelligence agencies.

The report contains some apparently contradictory information. Although The Sunday Times quoted a U.K. Home Office official saying that Snowden has “blood on his hands,” it also quoted a government source saying that there was no sign that agents have been hurt.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s aides, however, confirmed that Snowden’s files are in the hands of Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies, according to the report.

Pointing up    It’s barely conceivable – just enough to shore up the convictions of the poorly informed. Just remember; liars lie. And, both the U. S. and the U. K. have proven to be A+++ liars in this matter.  Who would publicly admit that their very own ultra/ultra – secret/secret – futuristic/futuristic – encrypted/encrypted – impossible to break/impossible to break – encryption system is worthless?

More right wing extremist nonsense parroted by a mainstream media which continues to fail massively in it’s primary function – as it has for years.

Right to be forgotten applies to all Google domains, rules French privacy authority – Google must respect the European Union’s ‘right to be forgotten’ court ruling on all its sites, not just those it says target EU countries, the French data protection authority has ruled, giving the company 15 days to comply.

The French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) ordered Google to remove the affected search results on all its domains, including google.com, or face a fine of up to €300,000 (about $337,000). So far, Google has only removed such results from those of its sites it says target EU users, including google.fr or google.de. French residents need only click the “Use Google.com” link on the google.fr homepage to have access to unfiltered search results.

The dispute began over a year ago, when the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) gave people the right to request removal of search results for queries including their names, if the results are inadequate or irrelevant.

This means that E.U. residents who want to remove a search result displayed on a search of their name can ask a search engine to delist it. The search engine must review the request and grant it if the proper conditions are met. If the search engine does not comply, they can lodge a complaint with their local data protection authority.

Germany drops investigation into claims the NSA tapped Angela Merkel’s phone – The German government has dropped a formal investigation into allegations that the NSA had been tapping chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone for several years. German federal prosecutor Harald Range said in a statement on Friday there was insufficient evidence to continue the investigation, The New York Times reports.

Back in 2013, German newspaper Der Spiegel ran a report claiming the US had been monitoring Merkel’s phone since 2002, based on internal NSA documents it had obtained. The White House responded by assuring Merkel she was no longer being monitored, but the report suggested the surveillance had gone on for more than a decade.

Range noted that while the NSA documents did contain a phone number that could be traced back to Merkel, there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest there had been an “authentic” order from the NSA to tap the phone. He also said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Merkel’s phone had actually been tapped.

What The U.K. Surveillance Powers Review Says On Encryption And Hacking – An independent review of U.K. surveillance powers conducted by QC David Anderson published its findings this week. Among its recommendations the report calls for judges to sign off interception warrants, and for a new law to govern surveillance powers — replacing the problematic patchwork of outdated and amended legislation that currently exists with stricter and more coherent oversight.

The report also supports continued use of “bulk data collection” (aka mass surveillance) by U.K. intelligence agencies — so long as “strict additional safeguards” oversee its usage and minimize privacy impacts.

Anderson writes:

…if the acceptable use of vast state powers is to be guaranteed, it cannot simply be by reference to the probity of its servants, the ingenuity of its enemies or current technical limitations on what it can do. Firm limits must also be written into law: not merely safeguards, but red lines that may not be crossed.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – June 12, 2015

25 Android Apps Put to the Security Test;  Fake mobile phone towers discovered in London;  Which Android phone to get? Google has a tool for that;  This is how much time you’re spending on smartphone apps;  ‘Your PC may be infected!’ Inside the shady world of antivirus telemarketing;  U.K. Review Backs Mass Surveillance But Wants Judges To Sign Warrants;  Apple Says These Are the Best Apps of the Year;   Android TV hidden gems: The 10 best hard-to-find apps;  Surfing the Web On Your iPhone Is About to Get Way Better;  Twitter’s mobile app now supports landscape video recording;  Twitter adds sharing block lists to help limit harassment;  Vintage Ask toolbar is malware – and we’ll kill Jeeves, says Microsoft;  These are the first Oculus Rift games;  German parliament may need to replace all software and hardware after hack;  Court refuses to block the FCC’s net neutrality rules;  Teen discovers new planet 1,000 light years away;  Microsoft Hyperlapse Pro Preview (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The dangers of Android malware may be exaggerated, but you should still play it safe – Not everyone agrees that Android malware seriously threatens security. But taking precautions is still a good idea.

25 Android Apps Put to the Security Test – Sure there are plenty of great apps, but there plenty of dangerous ones, too. That’s why most antivirus software providers, having already faced the massive challenge of dealing with PC malware, also provide security software designed specifically for the protecting the little green robot that lives in your phone or tablet. Every few months independent testing labs AV-Test releases a report on the state of Android security software. While the institute’s latest findings aren’t quite as optimistic as they’ve been in the past, they still contain plenty of good news.

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Which Android phone to get? Google has a tool for that – Diversity is both a boon and a bane in Android. On the one hand, it means that buyers can choose from their manufacturer of choice, features of preference, or unique style. On the other hand, it also exhibits the so-called “irony of choice”, almost paralyzing some from choosing among dozens of options. Although Google has probably been long aware of the situation, now it is taking a more active approach. It has just launched a new “Which Phone” web tool that can help narrow down the choices based on your use cases.

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This is how much time you’re spending on smartphone apps – You’re devoting a whole lot of time to smartphone apps, and it’s likely more for play than work. At least that’s what recent statistics suggest. The amount of time people spend each month on smartphone apps was nearly 37 1/2 hours in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to market research firm Nielsen. That represented a 63 percent jump over the same period two years ago. It’s the latest illustration of just how much time people are spending on their smartphones.

Apple Says These Are the Best Apps of the Year – Apple announced the winners of this year’s Apple Design Awards this week at its 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). 12 apps for iOS and Mac ranging from the old-school hopper game Crossy Road to the slick stock trading app Robinhood were recognized for design, creativity, function and personality, according to a statement from Apple. Two of the honorees were student winners: jump-O, a minimalist puzzle game for iPhone and iPad, and Elementary Minute, a quiz game for iPhone and Apple Watch.

Twitter Gets Serious About Messaging, Will Remove DM Character Limit – Beginning in July, DMs will no longer carry the 140 character limit Twitter enforces for its public posts. Direct Message character limit removal probably makes a lot of sense to anyone who uses the feature regularly. Brevity is key in the public-facing stream of Twitter itself, since that’s the whole point of the “micro-blogging” platform. But in private, it just means you often have to break up longer thoughts over multiple messages, and doing so can actually be really annoying.

Twitter’s mobile app now supports landscape video recording – Praise the heavens, mobile video shooters, Twitter has finally gotten with the times and lets you record videos in landscape orientation from within their iOS and Android apps. When Twitter first made in-app video recording available earlier this year, it used square formatting, made popular by social apps Vine and Instagram. Twitter makes it easy to shoot video in the new orientation, just hold your phone like normal, rotate it 90 degrees to the right or left, and start recording!

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Twitter adds sharing block lists to help limit harassment – Microblogging service hopes the ability to block multiple accounts at once will help curb abuse and harassment on the platform.

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Skype’s modern Windows app is dead, long live Skype for Windows desktop – Microsoft-owned Skype has announced today that it will be merging its two Windows apps into a single offering by retiring the touch-based, Modern UI version, and instead moving forward with the traditional desktop app. The touch-friendly Skype app was made for Windows 8 devices, while Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs have always continued to use the desktop app. In anticipation of the debut of Windows 10, the modern Skype app will no longer work beginning July 7th, and users will need to switch to the desktop version.

Reddit Bans Five Harassing Subreddits, Its Trolls Respond Exactly As You’d Expect – Reddit, the hugely popular online community know as the ‘front page of the internet’, has dropped the hammer on five groups on its site judged to be in violation of its policy against harassing users.

The final version of Oculus Rift is coming soon (pictures) – After years of prototypes and updates, Oculus Rift is ready to debut a final version that anyone can buy in 2016.

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10 do’s and don’ts for successful podcasting – Whether you’re in the process of planning a new podcast or you’re already producing episodes, there are (as you might expect) a number of do’s and don’ts to consider. Although these are not hard and fast rules, they will make the entire process (from creation to publication) easier, more productive, and more enjoyable.

Surfing the Web On Your iPhone Is About to Get Way Better – The next version of Apple’s iPhone software will allow adblocking on the device’s Safari browser, according to Apple’s iOS developer library. It’s the first time Apple’s mobile browser will allow adblocking extensions, which over 100 million people already use on their desktops, Nieman Lab reports.

Security:

Hackers stole Social Security numbers, personal data from every single federal employee – Last week, Chinese hackers were pinned for a large-scale attack which compromised the personal information of millions of current and former government employees. The breach targeted the Office of Personnel Management, and incited outrage from security firms and public officials over the lack of security surrounding the incident. Now, the country’s largest federal employee union, the AFGE, has claimed in an internal letter that the Social Security numbers and personal information of every single federal employee – 2.1 million people – have been compromised. Additionally, the AFGE claims Social Security numbers and personal information of 2 million federal retirees have been similarly compromised.

Report: Hack of government employee records discovered by product demo – An OPM statement on the attack said that the agency discovered the breach as it had “undertaken an aggressive effort to update its cybersecurity posture.” And a DHS spokesperson told Ars that “interagency partners” were helping the OPM improve its network monitoring “through which OPM detected new malicious activity affecting its information technology systems and data in April 2015.” Those statements may not be entirely accurate. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the breach was indeed discovered in April. But according to sources who spoke to the WSJ’s Damian Paletta and Siobhan Hughes, it was in fact discovered during a sales demonstration of a network forensics software package called CyFIR by its developer, CyTech Services. “CyTech, trying to show OPM how its cybersecurity product worked, ran a diagnostics study on OPM’s network and discovered malware was embedded on the network,” Paletta and Hughes reported.

Vintage Ask toolbar is malware – and we’ll kill Jeeves, says Microsoft – Older versions of the Ask toolbar, the bane of many a computer user over the years, has been declared persona non grata by Microsoft, and Redmond says its security software will now kill it on sight. In a June 11 update to its Malware Protection Center site, Microsoft states that older versions of the toolbar, which set itself up as a browser’s homepage and redirected all searches through Ask’s engine, now contravene Redmond’s policies. The latest build is fine, but older Ask toolbars will be hunted down and deleted.

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‘Your PC may be infected!’ Inside the shady world of antivirus telemarketing – Consumer antivirus software has become a highly competitive business, in part because data breaches are in the news almost every week, and people feel a need to protect themselves. It’s also a huge market, with an estimated $4.9 billion in annual sales, according to Gartner. That’s drawn all types of players, some of whom specialize more in affiliate marketing than in security.

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Agents at EZ Tech Support had a job to do: upsell hapless consumers who thought they had a computer virus.

Security Firm Kaspersky Hacked – In an ironic twist of fate, security firm Kaspersky on Wednesday announced that it was hacked. “The bad news is that we discovered an advanced attack on our own internal networks,” the company’s chairman and CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, wrote in a blog post. “It was complex, stealthy, it exploited several zero-day vulnerabilities, and we’re quite confident that there’s a nation state behind it. We’ve called it Duqu 2.0.”

German parliament may need to replace all software and hardware after hack – Some parliamentarians are refusing help from German intelligence services, a report said.

Company News:

Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo Chooses To Step Down, Jack Dorsey Named Interim CEO, Shares Up 3% – After years of user growth struggles, Twitter just announced that its CEO Dick Costolo will be stepping down July 1st, though he’ll remain on the board. Twitter co-founder and Square CEO Jack Dorsey will be the interim CEO. A conference call with investors has been set for 2:15pm PST today to discuss the situation.

eBay, PayPal asked to explain robocall policies – The soon-to-be-split eBay and PayPal need to answer for changes they’re making to their user agreements, according to the New York state attorney general’s office. Those modifications would allow eBay and PayPal to use “autodialed or prerecorded calls or text messages” to contact their users. The communication could be used to collect debts, seek opinions or answers to surveys, or offer promotions. eBay’s new policy will take effect on Monday; PayPal will implement its changes on July 1.

BlackBerry might adopt Android for its next handset – According to new reports, BlackBerry might be looking to adopt Android for one of its next handsets. This could prove a good move and help showcase the company’s focus on enterprise device management.

BMW and Chinese tech giant Baidu are launching a self-driving car this year – As Google edges closer to the dream of self-driving cars, Chinese search giant Baidu is trying to beat it to the finish line. The Chinese company — which has been working on self-driving vehicles for the past few years — first announced it had entered a partnership with BMW in 2014. It seems that collaboration has already paid off: this week, Baidu senior vice president Wang Jin said that his company would launch of a new self-driving car with the German car manufacturer before the end of the year.

Uber launches iPhone game to attract new drivers – ‘UberDrive’ teaches players to navigate the streets of San Francisco and recruits them to drive for the company

Games and Entertainment:

Retail video game industry suffered abysmal sales slump in May – May marked another dark spot for the US retail video game industry. Sales of game software on discs resumed a downward spiral, falling 25 percent year over year to $212.3 million and dampening the few brief moments in the last six months when software sales were up year over year thanks to a popular new game release, according to industry watcher the NPD Group. Hardware sales, after months and months of keeping the retail industry afloat, fell 18 percent to $153.6 million due to a continued steep drop-off in sales of older gaming consoles, like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

These are the first Oculus Rift games – The Oculus Rift is coming, and now we finally know some of the very first virtual reality games we’ll be able to play on it. At a press conference today, Oculus unveiled the final consumer version of its VR headset, as well as some of the initial games that will be playable when it finally launches. Some we already knew about, some are new, but all look potentially very exciting. The list includes games like sci-fi flight sim Eve Valkyrie, atmospheric RPG Chronos, and Edge of Nowhere, an arctic survival game from Insomniac Games, the studio behind Ratchet & Clank and Resistance.

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Android TV hidden gems: The 10 best hard-to-find apps – Last week, Android TV went from a platform bereft of apps to a platform lousy with them. With devices like the Nexus Player and the Nvidia Shield Android TV, you can now venture beyond Google’s curated selection and browse the entire catalog of more than 600 apps. This newfound openness for Android TV, however, is a mixed blessing. While the full catalog has some great apps throughout, finding them involves sifting through a lot of junk. To spare you the trouble, I’ve dug deep into the Android TV app store to find these 10 hidden gems:

Everything We Love (and Hate) About The Witcher 3 After 160 Hours –  This is a lightly edited dialogue between TIME’s games critic Matt Peckham and assistant managing editor Matt Vella about playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The conversation took place over email over the period of several days.

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Steam’s holding a ‘monster’ summer sale until June 21st – Steam’s annual summer sale is a time-honored tradition at this point, and this year’s iteration is particularly monstrous. Users can take advantage of daily rotating deals and flash sales that switch up every 12 hours until June 21st, meaning there’ll be plenty of opportunities to find steals even if nothing seems especially purchase-worthy on your first click-through. The sale’s kicking off with deals on games like the Tales from the Borderlands series, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, and Grand Theft Auto V. There’s also a gamified component to the sale: by playing the accompanying Monster Summer Game, users across the Steam community can work together to unlock even more deals.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Teen discovers new planet 1,000 light years away – Technically Incorrect: A 15 years old, a British school-kid finds something out there that no one had noticed before. How? By studying data.

Report: Airbus transport crash caused by “wipe” of critical engine control data – Reuters reported additional details today provided by individuals familiar with the investigation into the crash, stating that a critical part of the configuration data in three of the aircraft’s four ECUs—a file storing torque calibration parameters for each engine—was somehow “accidentally wiped” when the software was being installed. As a result, three of the aircraft’s engines automatically shut down in flight. Citing a safety document shown to Reuters, Tim Hepher reported that the pilot of the A400M would not have gotten an alert about the missing data until the aircraft was already at an altitude of 400 feet.

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A protoype of the Airbus A400M at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow. MilborneOne

Samsung unveils a transparent OLED TV, hides another one in a mirror – Soon, you’ll be able to mount a Samsung TV in your home without sacrificing valuable wall space that you could be using for shelves to show off your Amiibo collection (since you could hang it right over a picture window if you wanted to). Samsung claims their see-through OLED display is four times more transparent than competitors’ LCD-baesd designs. It’s also got a broader color gamut, higher contrast ratio, faster refresh rate (just 1ms), and uses much less power.

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See a diver high-five (high-fin?) a massive great white shark – A diver in the waters off the coast of Guadalupe Island gets out of the cage and exchanges a friendly slap with a massive shark that could easily eat your face.

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Court refuses to block the FCC’s net neutrality rules – In April, soon after the FCC passed strong net neutrality rules, the broadband industry sued to stop them. But, at least for now, the rules are safe: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has denied a request for a stay that would have temporarily halted the rules. Industry groups had hoped — quixotically — that a judge would prevent the rules from being implemented until the lawsuits were finished, but the rules will now officially come into effect tomorrow. Still, even as the lawsuits unfold, Republicans in Congress have been pushing legislation to stop the FCC. Most recently, the GOP has attempted to add a provision to a funding bill that would stop the commission from enforcing the rules. (This still requires the approval of both the House and Senate, as well as President Obama, who has supported the FCC’s rules.)

Something to think about:

Beyond Facebook:


Presently, I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles.

Everyday I go down the street and tell every passerby what I have eaten, how I feel, what I did the night before, and what I will do after.

I give them pictures of my friends, my family, my dog, and me gardening and spending time in my pool. 

I also listen to their conversations and tell them that I love them.

It works.

I already have 3 people following me – 2 police officers and a psychiatrist.


Thanks Joan   Smile

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows 10 UX Pack 4.0 – Experience Windows 10 without modifying system files. Also you can read about the upcoming Windows 10 in our preview: 7 Plus 8 Equals 10.

Windows 10 UX Pack will give you Windows 10 UI improvements such as theme and some Windows 10 features without touching system files at all so it won’t have such risk to harm your system at all. In this package, you’ll have Windows 10 inspired themes and applications to make your system resembles Windows 10 as much as possible without modifying system files.

Features:

Instantly dress up Windows 7/8/8.1 to upcoming Windows 10 in one minute

Seamless installation and uninstallation giving user’s confidence and security in system

Easily configurable in single click with intelligence Metro UI design

UxStyle memory patching

Windows 10 Modern, Glass or Metro theme

Instant cursors, wallpaper/logon screen customization

Start Orb rebuilt from original resources with authentic orb from Windows 10 resources

Virtual Desktop from Microsoft

Revived start menu with Metro support

Metro UI desktop emulation with pre-configured gadgets

Aero’s auto-colorization feature

And much more

Limitations: Requires Microsoft .NET Framework

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Unreal Engine 4.8 – Unreal Engine 4 is now available to everyone for free, and all future updates will be free! You can download the engine and use it for everything from game development, education, architecture, and visualization to VR, film and animation. When you ship a game or application, you pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter. It’s a simple arrangement in which we succeed only when you succeed.

Unreal Engine technology powers hundreds of games as well as real-time 3D films, training simulations, visualizations and more. Over the past 15 years, thousands of individuals and teams and have built careers and companies around skills developed using the engine.

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Microsoft Hyperlapse Pro Preview – Microsoft Hyperlapse is a new technology that creates smooth and stabilized time lapses from first-person videos. Want to show your friends what you saw on that 12-mile hike you took last weekend or let them experience how it felt to fly down the mountain on your recent ski trip? With Microsoft Hyperlapse, you can time lapse those experiences, distilling them into easily consumable, enjoyable experiences.

Features:

Hyperlapse Pro Preview can take video from any camera and create a time lapse with a smoothly moving camera.

It works especially well with wide field of view action camera videos, such as GoPro.

Supports different speed up factors from 2x to 25x.

Hyperlapses can be output at different resolutions and framerates.

Takes advantage of multi-core CPUs and high-end GPUs for better processing speeds.

A step-by-step user interface makes it easier than ever to create hyperlpases.

Limitations: 64-Bit Only

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

U.K. Review Backs Mass Surveillance But Wants Judges To Sign Warrants – A long-awaited independent review of U.K. government surveillance capabilities, conducted by QC David Anderson and published today, has recommended that interception warrants should be signed off by the judiciary, rather than government ministers.

And while the review generally supports U.K. intelligence agencies having bulk interception and data retention (aka mass surveillance) capabilities — which stands in contrast to the U.S. Senate’s recent rowing back on this front in the USA Freedom Act — Anderson stresses these powers should be “subject to strict additional safeguards”, such as having judges sign off interception warrants.

The review recommends a new body, called the Independent Surveillance and Intelligence Commission (ISIC), be set up to judicially authorize all interception warrants.

Other safeguards recommended in the report are tighter definitions of the purposes for which data is sought — with Anderson specifying it should be “defined by operations or mission purposes” (as opposed to fishing expeditions); and the introduction of a new form of “bulk warrant” to limit the acquisition of data captured via mass surveillance to comms metadata.

Fake mobile phone towers discovered in London: Stingrays come to the UK – It has been suspected for some time that stingrays are being used in the UK: back in 2011, The Guardian ran a story to this effect, but the Metropolitan Police refused to comment. A 2014 article in The Times gave details about what is believed to be the legal framework that regulates their use.

As a post from Privacy International explained, following The Times’ report, “when someone is targeted by an IMSI Catcher, it is considered a ‘property interference’ under the Police Act 1997 Part III … a ‘property interference’ is designed to regulate the placing of bugs and breaking into someone’s home, not mobile phone interception.” This approach allows the use of IMSI catcher devices to be bundled up with other kinds of bugging in official reports, which means it is impossible to know exactly how many times they have been deployed.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests about IMSI catchers, submitted by Privacy International and Sky News, were all refused. Asked by Sky News about the IMSI catchers discovered in London, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, would only say: “We’re not going to talk about it, because the only people who benefit are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing.” That’s the standard reply for all kinds of surveillance, but is as unsatisfactory here as it is elsewhere.

Belgian data retention law axed by constitutional court – A Belgian law requiring telecommunications operators and ISPs to store customer metadata for police investigations was axed by the Constitutional Court of Belgium on Thursday because it violates fundamental privacy rights.

Under the law, customer metadata such as call logs as well as location and Internet data had to be stored for one year for law enforcement to use when investigating serious crimes and terrorism.

The law went into effect in 2013 and was based on the now defunct EU Data Retention Directive that was invalidated by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) last year, also because it violated fundamental privacy rights.

The Belgian law was challenged by the League for Human Rights and the Order of French-speaking and German-speaking Lawyers shortly after it was introduced. They wanted the law annulled, arguing it was unconstitutional and violated European human rights.

If hackers can spy on you all then so should we – US Senator logic – CISA info-sharing bill tacked onto military funding paperwork – Following the cyber-attack during which dossiers on four million US government employees were stolen from Uncle Sam’s servers, staggering out of the smoldering blast crater is Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). And he’s not happy.

In his soot-covered hand is a copy of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), and this week, he angrily stapled it to another proposed law. Because that’s how people get things done in Washington.

The CISA legislation was written to allow technology companies to share information about their customers with the Feds for the purposes of national security and online threats, in exchange for partial legal immunity from citizens upset about this data handover. Critics say it’s a license to spy, whereas supporters say it will thwart the cyber-boogeymen.

CISA was due to be debated in the Senate later this year, but Burr has now added it as an amendment to the larger National Defense Authorization Act, which is primarily focused on military funding.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – June 10, 2015

Social Media presence will be monitored by the UK Government;  Apple iOS 9 beta 1 is available to download now;  Use your TV as a computer monitor: Everything you need to know;  2015 Father’s Day tech and gadgets gift guide;  Hurt By Fed Hack? Here’s Help;  Instagram is launching a redesigned website;  Skype will soon include built-in Translator; VMware unleashes Linux on the (virtual) desktop; 5 steps to keep your smart home from being hacked;  Apple’s WWDC Keynote In 90 Seconds;  Snapchat makes logging in more secure;  Cybercriminals increasingly target point of sales systems;  Facebook Bluetooth beacons released free for small businesses;  India’s mounting e-waste woes;  Birth month may correlate to some diseases;  Clonezilla (free);  Facebook’s Messenger Platform Gets Its First Game;  Destiny’s $40 expansion, The Taken King, leaks;  US tech giants to “far exceed” $35 billion loss in NSA fallout.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Social Media presence will be monitored by the UK Government – While some countries are making efforts to censor online users on their blogs and social media accounts, others seem more than happy to let you express freely, so that they can monitor you more easily than ever. Metro reports that the U.K. government has recently granted a contract to five companies that will monitor every post you make on Twitter, Facebook, or your personal blog, and provide the data to the Whitehall in real time, using filters that they provide, such as keywords and topics. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman told the Independent that they are looking to “monitor digital, social and traditional media so we understand what people are saying, identify their concerns and shape policies accordingly,” if this sounds strange, then you should definitely read about the U.K. Facebook Warriors.

Hurt By Fed Hack? Here’s Help – If a data breach exposes the one password you use over and over, its effects could reach far beyond the breached website. Dashlane has a pair of offers to help federal employees contain the problems caused by last week’s breach.

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5 steps to keep your smart home from being hacked – Security researchers needed just 5 to 20 minutes to hack most smart-home devices. Learn how to keep real hackers at bay with these five strategies.

Six Google Photos quirks and how to work around them – Google Photos is one of the best new products the Mountain View company has rolled out in some time. It has a great interface, some nice navigation tricks, and smart search so you can look up images by places or the objects in them. Though like any new product, it comes with its own set of quirks and features that aren’t obvious at first glance. If you are all-in with Google Photos, or just curious about whether it should serve as the home for all your memories, read on to see everything that we’ve dug up. These tips will solve a few of the service’s shortcomings.

Apple’s new Android app promises a seamless transition from Android to iOS 9 – Apple has introduced an Android app called “Move to iOS,” which transfers everything from contacts to photos from Android device to iOS device to make the transition as simple as possible.

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Apple iOS 9 beta 1 is available to download now – iOS 9 brings a range of improvements to Apple’s mobile OS, including better multitasking, new search features and more – and the first beta release is now available for you to try on your device.

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Microsoft’s Skype app for Windows will soon include built-in Translator support – After launching an open beta of its Skype Translator app last month, Microsoft has said that it will be adding the real-time translation feature into its Skype Windows desktop app later this summer.

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Instagram is launching a redesigned website with bigger photos – Instagram’s website is about to look much nicer. It’s introducing a new web design on desktop and mobile this week that cleans up the page and makes photos much bigger than they are now. Most noticeable is the change to profile pages on the desktop, which will begin displaying three large images in each row, rather than the five smaller images it displays right now. The grid of cover images is gone at the top, and it’s also doing away with a lot of the borders and rounded edges and getting on board with circular profile pics — basically, it’s playing catch up to Instagram’s app, but it looks like a great, if overdue, update.

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VMware unleashes Linux on the (virtual) desktop – VMware’s released Horizon 6 for Linux, thereby making it possible to deliver virtual Linux desktops. “VMware Horizon 6 for Linux opens up a whole new world of possibilities for VDI including higher education engineering classes, offshore development, high-end 3D workstations, and customers looking to replace Windows desktops outright,” Virtzilla gushes. If you chose to go down this road and buy thin clients, the company adds, you might save 60 per cent of operational and capital costs.

Windows 10: The votes poured in for these 10 features, and Microsoft delivered – Last October, we looked at the list of Windows 10 features that Microsoft’s users were demanding. And you know what? Since then, some of them have been added to Windows 10.

Use your TV as a computer monitor: Everything you need to know – Will that big, sexy screen look as good on your desk as it does in your living room? Let’s dig into the specifics of using an HDTV with your PC.

2015 Father’s Day tech and gadgets gift guide – A gift guide to help you buy gadgets for dads who enjoy their gaming, mobile devices, fishing, photography and more.

Security:

It’s 2015 and hackers can hijack your Windows PC if you watch a web video – IE, Media Player, Office, and more, fixed in this month’s security patch batch. This month’s bundle includes eight security bulletins, two rated “critical” and six rated “important.” Users and administrators are advised to test (if necessary) and install the updates as soon as possible to prevent attacks. Adobe is also releasing a scheduled security update. Their patch addresses 13 CVE-listed vulnerabilities in Flash Player for Windows, OS X and Linux systems. The update is being listed as a top priority for all three platforms. Users running AIR Desktop Runtime, AIR SDK and AIR for Android should also update, though those are considered to be a lower risk.

Beware Flash Malware, Ransomware Attacks – Adobe Flash malware attacks are on the rise, according to McAfee Labs, which reported a 317 percent surge in the first quarter. Attackers’ attention appears to have been diverted from Java and Microsoft Silverlight to un-patched Flash vulnerabilities.

Cybercriminals increasingly target point of sales systems – The data breach landscape could look very different in the future with the increased adoption of chip-enabled payment cards in North America—but for now point-of-sale systems account for the majority of breaches there, compared to a tiny minority in other regions of the world. Hacked point-of-sale (PoS) terminals were responsible for 65 percent of the data compromises investigated by security firm Trustwave last year in North America, compared to only 10 percent in Europe, Middle East and Africa and 11 percent in the Asia and Pacific region. Worldwide, the company investigated 574 breaches, half of them in the U.S.

Apple to require 6-digit passcodes on newer iPhones, iPads under iOS 9 – As part of its iOS 9 announcement on Monday, Apple revealed that all newer iDevices equipped with TouchID and running the newer version of the operating system will be required to upgrade from a four-digit to a six-digit passcode. According to Apple (and math), this will vastly expand the effort required to crack a four-digit passcode. Instead of 10,000 possible combinations, newer iOS devices will soon have one million. This change affects the iPhone 5S, 6, 6 Plus, iPad Air 2, and iPad Mini 3.

Snapchat makes logging in more secure with two-factor authentication – Snapchat’s making it a bit easier to keep your account (and all the snaps contained within) secure. The app’s most recent update on Android and iOS adds the ability to enable two-factor authentication. Once switched on inside the settings menu, login verification requires that you enter a 6-digit code upon signing in from any device you haven’t used before. Snapchat will text this temporary code to the phone number linked with your account, a popular security move that should substantially lessen the odds of someone hijacking or otherwise gaining unauthorized access to your account.

Company News:

Apple’s WWDC Keynote In 90 Seconds – Apple had a lot to announce at its Worldwide Developer Conference this morning, and it was easy to miss big news as it happened during the two-hour-plus keynote. We’ve summed it up right here, with links to our coverage if you want to know more.

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Antitrust probe targets Apple Music and music labels – An antitrust probe is underway from the attorneys general of Connecticut and New York that is looking into whether Apple’s negotiations for its Apple Music service with music labels included any violations. Apple recently introduced the service at its WWDC 2015 keynote, and according to sources the company was still in negotiations with the music labels down to the wire. The investigation is looking into whether there was any pressure from Apple toward the music labels, or if those labels conspired with each other and/or Apple to back out of supporting other competing services — particularly freemium ones like Spotify.

Facebook Bluetooth beacons released free for small businesses – Facebook for Business has revealed their next play in the small (and potentially large) business world – free bluetooth beacons. Facebook Bluetooth beacons send information to smartphones and tablets that come in range with them. Inside Facebook, users will see “place tips,” including greetings and links to pages for locations they’re exploring. At launch, Facebook Bluetooth beacons work only with iPhones – Android will just have to wait until the Facebook for Android app is ready to roll. Users will need an iPhone 4S or later with Bluetooth turned on to work with Facebook’s bluetooth beacons.

Facebook Messenger On Android Hits 1…Billion…Downloads – Only two companies have apps with over 1 billion Google Play downloads, and the other is Google. Today Facebook proved just how big a business replacing SMS can be, as its leader David Marcus announced Messenger has now been downloaded over 1 billion times on Android. It joins Facebook and WhatsApp, and Google’s Gmail, YouTube, Search, and Maps in this very exclusive club. Messenger’s strategy of layering modern mobile sharing features over a speedy texting app has paid off, and it looks like Facebook’s just getting started. With VOIP, video calling, stickers, voice clips, peer-to-peer payments, location, and a whole platform of third-party content creation apps, Messenger wants to own every way you communicate. And it partially is for well over 600 million users.

HP to pay $100 million to shareholders following doomed Autonomy deal – The money will go into a settlement fund used to compensate shareholders who purchased HP stock between August 19, 2011 and November 20, 2012.

Founder Jack Ma Lays Out Alibaba’s US Strategy – Founder and executive chairman Jack Ma said there’s a big opportunity for Alibaba in the United States: “Alibaba was founded in China, but it was created for the world.” Ma spoke today at The Economic Club of New York, and he made similar points in a new op-ed for The Wall Street Journal (paywall). He said that as Alibaba has grown, and especially after it had the largest IPO over, he’s been constantly asked when Alibaba is coming to the U.S.: “When are you going to compete with Amazon? When are you going to compete with eBay?”

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft revives Work & Play Bundle with Netflix and Xbox freebies – To make a good deal even better, Microsoft is reviving its Work & Play Bundle yet again. This time users that pick up the bundle can expect a Netflix subscription and a Microsoft gift card.

Destiny’s $40 expansion, The Taken King, leaks before E3 reveal – Destiny’s first two expansions — The Dark Below and House of Wolves — have their flaws, the most glaring of which is that “expansion” is too kind a word for the amount of content provided. Both are good enough, and House of Wolves notably added many quality-of-life improvements, but the upcoming expansion has long been rumored to add a massive amount of new content, whereas the first two expansions did not. If a pre-E3 leak is to be believed, the upcoming expansion will be called The Taken King, and be worth its seemingly high asking price of $40.

Force lightning

Call of Duty: Black Ops III is coming to PS3 and Xbox 360, too – Call of Duty fans don’t have to upgrade their consoles just yet. Publisher Activision has announced that the latest game in the series, Black Ops III, will be coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; the game was originally announced only for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC. While series mainstay Treyarch is still developing the game for newer consoles, two studios — Beenox and Mercenary Technology — will be handling the 360 / PS3 port.

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Hands-on with Metal Gear Solid V: Stealth infiltration and cardboard research – The hour-and-a-half we had to try out Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain at a recent press event seemed like a laughably short introduction for a game in this franchise. That demo wouldn’t even cover some of the longer cut scenes in previous Metal Gear Solid games, after all. But this isn’t your standard Metal Gear Solid game. The near-final build we played at Konami’s Los Angeles campus recently is structured less as one epic, sprawling story, and more as a series of largely disconnected missions. Each mission is structured almost like a standalone episode in a TV show, complete with a three-act structure and opening and closing credits.

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Running out in the open like this is a good way to get shot. Just saying.

Facebook’s Messenger Platform Gets Its First Game – Facebook Messenger’s quest to own all the ways you connect with friends is now expanding to games. Today I spotted “Doodle Draw Game” in the Messenger platform app list, and Facebook says this is the first true game available since the platform launched in April.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Birth month may correlate to some diseases (bad news, October) – Columbia University scientists find correlations between certain birth months and the risk of contracting 55 diseases. Because birthdays aren’t depressing enough on their own.

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US House votes to ban Internet access taxes permanently – By voice vote on Tuesday, the House agreed to pass the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, which would prohibit states from taxing Internet access and from levying any new taxes that target Internet services but have no offline equivalent. The bill would prohibit taxes on bandwidth or email, for example. Congress has passed temporary moratoriums since 1998, and the current moratorium is set to expire Oct. 1. The House action sends the bill to the Senate. Some senators have resisted calls for a permanent tax moratorium in recent years.

New Pizza Hut boxes transform into smartphone movie projectors – Pizza Hut is taking “dinner and a movie” to a whole new level in Hong Kong with the Blockbuster Box. Thanks to a specially designed pizza table (that little plastic disc with legs that keeps the lid from touching your pie), this limited-edition box can be turned into a projector for your smartphone. How’s it all work? Well, instead of the usual opaque pizza table, this one comes with a lens. Once you’ve removed the pizza, simply punch a hole in the designated area, pop the lens in, put your phone in the box, and start the big screen experience at home. The lens basically reflects the images playing on your phone and tosses them up on the nearest wall. You’ll want to keep the room as dark and quiet as possible, though to see and hear the movie.

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India’s mounting e-waste woes – The country’s smartphone boom has only just begun, which means an urgent game plan to tackle e-waste needs to be formulated in order to prevent a full-blown environmental disaster in the future. The good news is there’s money to be made here.

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Critics say that a new study linking creativity and mental illness is lacking – Genetic variations that can collectively increase a person’s risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can also be used to predict creativity, according to a new study published in Nature Neuroscience. The study’s researchers claim that this is the strongest argument yet for shared roots linking psychosis and creativity. But the correlation found in this particular study isn’t very strong, some researchers argue. And without a proper definition for creativity, arguing that such a link exists could do more harm than good.

Mercedes-Benz takes on Tesla with its own home battery – Tesla saw ample success with its home batteries, so much so that you’re going to have to wait quite a while to get one yourself. It’s not the only company getting into that market, though, and we’ve known for a few days that Mercedes-Benz was planning to challenge the company. Today Daimler dropped some details on that plan, and officially began taking registrations from interested parties. The home batteries will be branded as Mercedes-Benz offerings, but whether the company will experience the same demand levels as Tesla is yet to be seen.

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People Love Watching Online Video, Even on Tiny Screens – In a study published by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), 36 percent of respondents said they watch five-minute or longer videos daily on their smartphones. While some folks find it difficult to stare at a 5-inch display for extended periods of time, others—like viewers in Turkey, Finland, China, Russia, and Singapore—are willing, if not eager. Chinese users, in fact, are most inclined to watch films and full-length TV shows on a mobile screen.

Japanese government wants fully-functioning toilets in elevators – When earthquakes strike Japan, elevator passengers are often trapped with no way to relieve themselves, which is why the toilet industry wants to figure out flushable toilets in elevators. While it’s a great idea, some surely wish it happened sooner.

Something to think about:

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Today’s Free Downloads:

RawTherapee – Photo editing application aimed at unprocessed images from digital cameras (RAW format), featuring a wide array of tweaks and filters.

High Image Quality

96-bit (floating point) processing engine.

Non-destructive editing.

Get the most details and least artifacts from your raw photos thanks to modern and traditional demosaicing algorithms: AMaZE, DCB, AHD, EAHD, HPHD, IGV, LMMSE, VNG4, Mono and Fast.

Advanced color handling from white balance to HSV (Hue-Saturation-Value) curves, color toning and color management.

Powerful CIE Color Appearance Model 2002 (CIECAM02) module.

Enhanced exposure and tonality tools: tone and Lab curves, highlights and shadows tools, tone mapping (HDR-like effect), etc.

Multiple denoising methods: luminance, chrominance (both rewritten in 2012), impulse (for salt and pepper noise) noise reduction.

Several tools to enhance details: unsharp mask, RL deconvolution, contrast by detail levels.

Efficiency

Multi-threaded algorithms for high performance (RawTherapee can utilize modern processor features, like SSE).

Quick thumbnails load lightning fast and are replaced later with live thumbnails.

Batch processing: convert all the developed images at once without loading the processor while you work.

Copy/paste editing parameters from one file to many other. Partially copying and/or pasting is also possible.

Basic tools immediately at your hands.

Parallel editing of multiple images in separate editor tabs, and/or all at once from the file browser.

An optional secondary display can be used.

Versatility

Wide variety of supported cameras: almost all DSLRs and even some medium format bodies are supported.

Can load most raw files including 16-, 24- and 32-bit raw HDR DNG images, as well as standard JPEG, PNG (8- and 16-bit) and TIFF (8-, 16- and 32-bit logluv) images.

Can save JPEG, PNG (8- and 16-bit) and TIFF (8- and 16-bit) images.

Advanced control over the algorithms with many fine-tuning parameters and curves.

Can send to GIMP or the editing tool of your choice in one click (16-bit TIFF file).

Command line usage besides the normal graphical interface.

Various layouts: multiple tabs, single tab with filmstrip, vertical tab with filmstrip, dual monitor.

Freedom for Free

RawTherapee is free and open source software, meaning you can use it free of charge, wherever you like on whatever hardware you like, as long as you abide by the copyleft GPLv3 license. Download the source code, modify it, feel free to do what comes to mind. We believe in open software.

It is cross-platform: Linux, Mac, or Windows, be it 32-bit or 64-bit – you pick, we provide.

International: it is available in 25 languages!

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Clonezilla – Clonezilla is an Open Source partition and disk imaging/cloning program similar to True Image or Norton Ghost.

It helps you to do system deployment, bare metal backup and recovery. Clonezilla live is suitable for single machine backup and restore. While Clonezilla SE is for massive deployment, it can clone many (40 plus!) computers simultaneously. Clonezilla saves and restores only used blocks in the harddisk. This increases the clone efficiency. With some high-end hardware in a 42-node cluster, a multicast restoring at rate 8 GB/min was reported.

Features:

Free (GPL) Software.

Filesystem supported: (1) ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs, reiser4, xfs, jfs, btrfs of GNU/Linux, (2) FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS of MS Windows, (3) HFS+ of Mac OS, (4) UFS of FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD, (5) minix of Minix, and (6) VMFS3 and VMFS5 of VMWare ESX. Therefore you can clone GNU/Linux, MS windows, Intel-based Mac OS, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Minix and VMWare ESX, no matter it’s 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x86-64) OS. For these file systems, only used blocks in partition are saved and restored. For unsupported file system, sector-to-sector copy is done by dd in Clonezilla.

LVM2 (LVM version 1 is not) under GNU/Linux is supported.

Boot loader, including grub (version 1 and version 2) and syslinux, could be reinstalled.

Both MBR and GPT partition format of hard drive are supported. Clonezilla live also can be booted on a BIOS or uEFI machine.

Unattended mode is supported. Almost all steps can be done via commands and options. You can also use a lot of boot parameters to customize your own imaging and cloning.

One image restoring to multiple local devices is supported.

Multicast is supported in Clonezilla SE, which is suitable for massively clone. You can also remotely use it to save or restore a bunch of computers if PXE and Wake-on-LAN are supported in your clients.

The image file can be on local disk, ssh server, samba server, or NFS server.

Based on Partclone (default), Partimage (optional), ntfsclone (optional), or dd to image or clone a partition. However, Clonezilla, containing some other programs, can save and restore not only partitions, but also a whole disk.

By using another free software drbl-winroll, which is also developed by us, the hostname, group, and SID of cloned MS windows machine can be automatically changed.

Limitations: Clonezilla offers multiple packages for different processors (i686, 586, AMD64, Intel 54) but this download works on most modern computers. They also offer zip downloads for thumb drives. These can be downloaded by clicking on the author link above.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

US tech giants to “far exceed” $35 billion loss in NSA fallout – Silicon Valley is expected to take a harsher beating over claims it was working with US intelligence agencies

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) said in a new report Tuesday that the tech industry will likely “far exceed” the group’s initial estimate of losing up to $35 billion. The group’s reason is in part because little has been done to address global concerns two years after leaks revealed the PRISM surveillance program.

ITIF, a non-profit group with a focus on tech issues, said that matters were compounded by politicians failing to adopt new laws reining in government surveillance, which “sacrifices robust competitiveness of the US tech sector for vague and unconvincing promises of improved national security,” said report authors Daniel Castro and Alan McQuinn.

But in reality, the figures could be incalculable.

Justice Department plotting to resume NSA bulk phone records collection – About an hour after the White House said President Barack Obama had signed legislation ending the National Security Agency’s bulk telephone collection program, the Justice Department told a secret court that the controversial spy program Edward Snowden disclosed could continue under the law.

That’s according to a Justice Department memo (PDF)—released Monday—to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court), which has authorized the snooping program 49 times in six-month intervals.

The memo notes that Congress did indeed end the bulk telephone metadata program with the passage of the USA Freedom Act and the president’s signature on June 2. But the act also allowed for the program to be extended for six months to allow “for an orderly transition” to a less-invasive telephone metadata spying program.

Tech giants gang up on Obama over encryption key demands – A pair of technology industry pressure groups have sent a letter to President Obama asking his administration to back off demands that companies give government agencies the ability to decrypt all user data.

In the letter [PDF], the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) ask the President to curb the NSA from demanding that companies hand over decryption keys or require them to otherwise weaken their encryption.

“We are opposed to any policy actions or measures that would undermine encryption as an available and effective tool,” the groups write. “Encryption is an essential asset of the global digital infrastructure, enabling security and confidentiality for transactions as well as assurances to individuals that their communications are private and information is protected.”

In addition to President Obama, the letter CCs US Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

Between them, the two cosigning groups count as members some of the largest companies in the tech and finance industries. Represented by ITIC are Apple, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Samsung, SAP, Twitter, VMware, and Yahoo!, among others.

Feds want to unmask internet commenters writing about the Silk Road trial judge – Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht has already been sentenced to life in prison, but the fallout from the trial continues: the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York now wants to know the identities of people anonymously commenting on the judge in the trial.

A grand jury subpoena, obtained by Ken White of the law blog Popehat, demands that libertarian news magazine Reason hand over “any and all identifying information” about certain commenters posting on an article published May 31st, “Silk Road Trial: Read Ross Ulbricht’s Haunting Sentencing Letter to Judge.”

The comments are vile. One suggests “[it’s] judges like these that should be taken out back and shot.” Another says, “I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman.” But the subpoena cites a law against “interstate threats” as the reason for demanding the information, which the Supreme Court very recently decided must include real intent.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – June 8, 2015

The Online Privacy Lie Is Unraveling;  How to speed up Chrome on Android;  Desert island tech: What you need when you’re off the grid;  3 mobile games that help you get things done;  How to stop autoplaying HTML5 videos;  3 Staggering Figures About Apple That Tell You Everything;  9 useful PowerShell tools;  This Wearable Will Judge Your Sexual Performance;  Windows 10: Nine things you need to know;  Videoconferencing do’s and don’ts (with video);  Hacker turns toy into tool that can open garage doors in seconds;  Netflix continues European expansion with three more countries;  Final Fantasy Tactics now available from Google Play;  When Windows 10 arrives, will your files and apps survive?  Yahoo axes Maps, Pipes, other services;  A History Of The World In Clickbait Headlines;  Money Manager Ex (free);  Feds can charge you with obstruction of justice for clearing your browser history.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Online Privacy Lie Is Unraveling – A new report into U.S. consumers’ attitude to the collection of personal data has highlighted the disconnect between commercial claims that web users are happy to trade privacy in exchange for ‘benefits’ like discounts. On the contrary, it asserts that a large majority of web users are not at all happy, but rather feel powerless to stop their data being harvested and used by marketers. The report authors’ argue it’s this sense of resignation that is resulting in data tradeoffs taking place — rather than consumers performing careful cost-benefit analysis to weigh up the pros and cons of giving up their data (as marketers try to claim). They also found that where consumers were most informed about marketing practices they were also more likely to be resigned to not being able to do anything to prevent their data being harvested.

Desert island tech: What you need when you’re off the grid – Some of us like to go off the grid periodically to get away from things, while others find themselves forced off the grid as a result of flooding, fire, or some other misfortune. No matter what the reason, I find having the right gear with you can make all the difference.

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How to stop autoplaying HTML5 videos – Just when you thought you were safe from autoplay videos, you now have to block them in HTML5 as well as Flash. Here’s how–but sorry, there’s no solution for Explorer.

Easily switch audio devices on Windows – If you’re watching a movie that’s playing through your speakers, and then decide to switch to your headset, the process of changing devices feels a bit clunky on Windows. As an alternative, the Audio Switch 2.0 app gives you a fast way to select an audio device. Here’s how to use it:

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Nicole Cozma/CNET

How to speed up Chrome on Android – If you’re a heavy browser user on the Android platform, chances are that you’re using Chrome. When you first started using that browser, it was probably pretty zippy–but as time wore on, the browser slowed a bit until its performance degradation was noticeable. Or maybe, from your initial usage, Chrome never seemed fast enough. No matter your case, I have a few tips that will help you speed up the Chrome browser on Android. None of these tips will require the installation of third-party software, and they’re do-able by any level of user. Let’s get to it!

Microsoft opens Skype for Web beta to all in U.S., U.K. – On June 5, Microsoft expanded the Skype for Web beta to include anyone in the U.S. or U.K. interested in trying out the Skype for Web beta. Microsoft will broaden the pool of testers to include those in other countries “in the next few weeks,” said officials in today’s blog post. Those interested can go to Skype.com or web.skype.com and sign in and connect to Skype for Web.Skype for Web alleviates the need to download the Skype app before conferencing and/or instant-messaging others.

This Wearable Will Judge Your Sexual Performance – Described as a “sexual activity tracker, interactive sex-coach, and couples’ vibrator,” the tulip-shaped device is worn on the base of the penis, and features sensors on the inside that monitor your body movements during sex. This information is sent to the Lovely mobile app, which then suggests new positions you might want to try next time you’re in the mood. It will also tell you how many calories you burned during sex along with your “top speed,” duration, and force. The data is stored in a daily log so you can track your sexual prowess over time. Check it out in the (mostly) SFW video below.

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Windows 10: Nine things you need to know – Windows 8 has had a bit of a tumultuous run, something Microsoft is hoping to turn around with Windows 10. I’ve spent the last eight months running the Windows Technical Preview on desktops, laptops and tablets, watching it evolve from interesting concept to the my primary operating system. The release date is scarcely a month away, but there’s still quite a bit of ground to cover before Windows 10 is ready for primetime. If you’re new to the party and have questions, we’ve got some answers on the latest step for Windows.

When Windows 10 arrives, will your files and apps survive? – Windows 10 marks Microsoft’s big push to get itself back on course after the miscues of Windows 8, so every little thing counts — including getting the installation correct right off the bat. Not all software upgrades go smoothly, however. Compatibility problems sometimes rear up, especially when you upgrade from one operating system to another. Certain hardware may be not compatible. Certain software programs may not be supported or may need to be updated or reinstalled. How will you know if the hardware and software you run in Windows 7 or 8.1 will still work after the upgrade? Microsoft can help you determine if and how your PC or tablet will handle the move to Windows 10.

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How to turn your Windows 10 upgrade files into an ISO disk image – One question I’ve been asked more than any other in recent weeks is whether Microsoft will release Windows 10 in ISO format. No one outside Redmond knows yet, but in the meantime there’s an option: Make your own ISO files. Here’s how.

9 useful PowerShell tools – In this slideshow, I will highlight 9 resources for immersing yourself in the PowerShell world. Whether you’re writing scripts, working in a DevOps-oriented environment or administering software from vendors other than Microsoft using PowerShell, there is something for everyone in this group of resources. And best of all — they are all free, save for one excellent paid product. What are you waiting for? Let’s dive in.

Videoconferencing do’s and don’ts (with video!) – Whether you’re an on-site presenter or distant participant, here’s how to do a remote meeting right.

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Tumblr Adds New GIF Search Capabilities – Looking for that perfect GIF to really accentuate your Tumblr post? A new addition to the site will help you find the perfect animated image.

Security:

Hacker turns toy into tool that can open garage doors in seconds – Owners of fixed-code garage door openers might want to consider upgrading them because a researcher has developed a technique that guesses the numbers in seconds. To showcase the new attack, which he dubbed Open Sesame, security researcher Samy Kamkar reprogrammed a children’s toy designed for short-distance texting called Radica Girl Tech IM-me because it has all the needed wireless components and because “it’s pink,” his favorite color.

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China Calls Accusations of Links to Hacking ‘Irresponsible’ – China said Friday that any allegations that it was involved in breaking into U.S. government computers are irresponsible. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular news briefing that Beijing hopes the U.S. would be “less suspicious and stop making any unverified allegations, but show more trust and participate more in cooperation.” U.S. officials say China-based hackers are suspected of breaking into the computer networks of the U.S. government personnel office and stealing identifying information of at least 4 million federal workers.

Continued Hacking Highlights U.S-Chinese Cyberwar Worries – The latest massive computer hack suggests the Chinese had it right: it may be time for the U.S. to build a great wall to protect its data and that of 320 million Americans. That’s why the U.S. secretly expanded the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program to root out hackers in 2012. But, as a rash of recent data breaches makes clear, the hackers retain the upper hand.

Company News:

3 Staggering Figures About Apple That Tell You Everything – Apple is a behemoth, a tech industry giant with a market cap larger than many national economies. It has changed the way we listen to music and the way we communicate with one another. With the Apple Watch, it seems to be on its way to changing the way we tell time, pay for goods and exercise. Here are three numbers that really tell you what you need to know about where Apple is in 2015:

Netflix continues European expansion with three more countries – After addingsix more countries in Europe last year, Netflix has announced that it is now headed towards Spain, Italy, and Portugal. Outside of Europe, the popular streaming service was recently launched in Australia and New Zealand as well. The newly announced countries will be offered the original Netflix shows in addition to movies, specials, and other localized content at launch. The service will be accessible from all Internet connected TVs, tablets, smartphones, and gaming consoles when it launches in October.

Yahoo axes Maps, Pipes, other services as it narrows focus – Yahoo says it has a clear focus on search, communications, and digital content, and to keep that focus some older services must go.

Firefox OS in flux as Mozilla loses technology chief to startup – Andreas Gal, co-founder of Mozilla’s mobile OS project, joins others from the project in a startup to link new devices to the Net. It’s part of big changes coming to Firefox OS.

iHeartRadio notches 70 million registered users – iHeartRadio, the online arm of the traditional radio giant formerly known as Clear Channel, said Friday it hit 70 million people who have registered to listen to digital stations. The growth reflects both the growing popularity of streaming music generally as well as iHeartRadio’s promotional advantage of being attached to the country’s biggest terrestrial radio company, iHeartMedia, that also operates a high profile concert series of the same name.

Games and Entertainment:

3 mobile games that help you get things done – Let’s face it: some of the tasks we do every day are pretty mundane. Maybe even downright boring. Yet, we still have to do them. Whether it’s checking email and making sure we’ve responded to all of the appropriate messages, or remembering to write that daily report every single day, there’s a lot of stuff do to. But staying motivated to complete even the most tedious of tasks doesn’t have to be a chore in itself. Here are three apps that make it downright fun.

Final Fantasy Tactics now available from Google Play – The game Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is now available for download from the Google Play Store. The game was launched by Square Enix on Thursday, and it is rated “E” for Everyone. Says the maker, this was the series’ first tactical RPG, and it was released back in 1997. The game then made another appearance after being released — again — in 2007 for the PSP, garnering itself a larger fan base. Now mobile users can enjoy it, too.

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Xbox One with new controller and more storage appears on Amazon – According to a new posting on Amazon, you’ll soon be able to pick up an Xbox One with 1TB of storage and a new controller that features a standard 3.5mm headset jack. Bundled with a digital version of The Master Chief Collection, the refreshed console was listed for $400, though unsurprisingly, most of the details have since been pulled from the Amazon listing. Microsoft previously revealed the new controller in a support article, saying that the newer version would be released after June. Meanwhile, a 1TB version of the console was previously released as part of a limited edition Call of Duty bundle.

Portal Pinball review: This is a triumph, huge success! – If you’re a fan of the Portal series, playing this table will bring back great memories and put a smile on your face. The gameplay is fun, and while most of the shots are ramps (which gets a little repetitive), the charm of the characters and the way Zen Studios integrated the whole thing into the table makes the entire experience a great one. Portal Pinball is available on all major platforms except the Wii U, although we suspect it will be available there soon. Zen Studios also recommends purchasing the table on PS3 or Vita first, so you can import it to the PS4, or the Xbox 360 so you can import it to the Xbox One since the price is $2.99 regardless of the initial platform.

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Valve debuts Alienware’s Steam Machine, starts at $449 and arrives in October / November – Remember the Steam Machine? After months of rumors, Valve revealed at CES 2014 that they would be partnering with numerous PC manufacturers to build a gaming PC with a controller. While news swirled that the console would arrive sometime in 2014, Valve delayed the console launch until 2015 to improve on the unique controller. Fortunately, Valve has announced that the first official Steam Machine created by Alienware will be available during the upcoming holiday season.

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This week in games: Our first look at Bard’s Tale IV, Battleborn, Soma, and more – Plus Spike Lee is directing NBA 2k16’s MyCareer mode and he swears it’ll be better than Oldboy. Actually, he didn’t really say that. This is gaming news for the week of June 1.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The Death And Life Of Truth In The Internet Age – The internet still remains our best hope for building a brighter, more truthful future. However, we truly(!) need to change our thinking on what the truth is and how it can be used. Verification alone will never uncover all the facts of our world, so instead, we must be willing to live in an era when the facts can suddenly change on us without resorting to cynicism.

Google begins publicly reporting self-driving car accidents – Google is beginning to publicly detail its driverless car accidents in light of heightened concern about their safety following reports that they’ve already been in several collisions. Accidents will be detailed on a monthly basis as part of a new report that Google is starting to release on the project’s progress. In its first report, for the month of May, Google also details all prior accidents that the vehicles have gotten into. None of which, Google says, were its car’s fault.

NHTSA tech will prevent drunk drivers from starting cars – No one will argue that driving under the influence is an irrational thing to do, but once you’re in that situation, all rationality is clearly thrown out the window. This causes around 10,000 people to lose their lives each year. So when you aren’t in a condition to make that decision not to drive, your car might make that decision for you. That is what the US Department of Transportation’s National HIghway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed, showing technology that could stop cars from even starting when the driver is drunk.

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A History Of The World In Clickbait Headlines – You Won’t Believe How Accurate And Illuminating It Is.

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Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s Shocking New Method For Losing Ten Pounds In One Second (Aristocrats Hate Him).

Google search reveals Indian prime minister among ‘top 10 criminals’ – Technically Incorrect: Search for “Top 10 Criminals” and you’ll find Indian leader Narendra Modi, as well as George W Bush. Are machines not as clever as we think?

Something to think about:

“Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him.”

–      Groucho Marx

Today’s Free Downloads:

Eusing Launcher – Organize all your desktop icons and set them up in any way you want, and arrange them according to your wishes and needs.

If you are a Windows user and have a lot of icons placed on the desktop, it may be really difficult to find a certain icon and manage all of them. There is a better way of organizing all your icons on the desktop, using a powerful launcher.

Eusing Launcher organizes all the desktop icons in the shape of a circle, allowing you to easily and quickly find any desired icon.

Features:

Easily organize all your icons and set them up in any way you want

Offers you the easiest & fastest way to access any program or Windows feature

Quick access to your Windows system directories and Windows accessories

Enable you to organize your work space

Just drag and drop shortcut or program to add

Use the hot key to bring Eusing Launcher to the top

Use the hot key to switch desktop between Eusing Launcher and Windows Desktop

Keyboard shortcuts can help you save time

Fully customizable for the maximum number of icons, the opacity level and size of the shape

Backup the program’s settings and the list of icons

Program can be minimized to tray or just stay hidden

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Money Manager Ex – Money Manager Ex is a free, open-source, cross-platform, easy-to-use personal finance software. It primarily helps organize one’s finances and keeps track of where, when and how the money goes. It is also a great tool to get a bird’s eye view of your financial worth.

Money Manager includes all the basic features that 90% of users would want to see in a personal finance application. The design goals are to concentrate on simplicity and user-friendliness – something one can use everyday.

Manage Multiple Accounts

Create and maintain an electronic checkbook – Checking, Savings, Credit Card or Loans, Stock Investment Accounts, Assets

Checking, Savings, Credit Card or Loan Accounts

Manage income and expense transactions within these accounts

Create your own categories and organize these transactions to track where your money comes or goes.

Manage money transfers between accounts

Mark transactions as reconciled, unreconciled or void to track them against your bank statements

Manage Payees

Stock/Bonds/Mutual Fund Accounts

Track your shares, bonds and related investments

Track the gain/loss for each investment

Update current share price

General Account Features

Ability to handle multiple currency across accounts

Internationalization of currency formatting

Unicode support for all data storage

Track closed Accounts

Setup accounts as favorite accounts

Track your Bills and Deposits- Create bills & deposits to be reminded of your upcoming bills and deposits so you never miss a payment or deposit

Account Summary Views and Navigation- An easy to use tree view navigator to navigate across accounts and summarized views of your accounts, upcoming bills & deposits and income vs. expenses

Budgeting- Setup budgets for a calendar year and see how you are doing over time.

Importing, Exporting and Printing- Ability to import, export and print your account information

Import

Import information from Excel in CSV format

Import information from QIF format (Microsoft Money & Quicken)

Exports

Export information from any account to Excel (Comma Separated Value -.CSV) format

Printing

Printing of reports/accounts with inbuilt print preview.

Reporting

View your spending/expenses in a wide variety of ways.

View spending by category over a date range for specific or all accounts

View spending on a single category over time

View income vs expenses

View spending by payee

View expenses and how you are doing on a budget.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Feds can charge you with obstruction of justice for clearing your browser history – In the early 2000s, former US Congressmen Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and Michael Oxley (R-OH) crafted a bill that would put pressure on corporations to comply with federal prosecutors during investigations. It was largely a response to 2001’s Enron scandal, when the energy company was able to hide billions of dollars in debt due to corporate loopholes and a little creative accounting. The bill, known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, was signed into law by President Bush in 2002.

Since then, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has subtly provided the legal groundwork for prosecuting people for something like deleting their browser history. One such case is that of Khairullozhon Matanov, a 24-year-old former cab driver who ate dinner with Tamerlan and Dhzokhar Tsarnaev the night of the Boston Marathon bombings. Federal prosecutors have charged Matanov under Sarbanes-Oxley for destroying evidence, The Nation reports.

Don’t expect Congress to make major changes to NSA surveillance – After the U.S. Congress approved what critics have called modest limits on the National Security Agency’s collection of domestic telephone records, many lawmakers may be reluctant to further change the government’s surveillance programs.

The Senate this week passed the USA Freedom Act, which aims to end the NSA’s mass collection of domestic phone records, and President Barack Obama signed the bill hours later.

After that action, expect Republican leaders in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to resist further calls for surveillance reform. That resistance is at odds with many rank-and-file lawmakers, including many House Republicans, who want to further limit NSA programs brought to light by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.

County sheriff warrantlessly used stingray 500+ times, claims to have no records – The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD), the largest law enforcement agency in California’s capital region, has operated a stingray at least 500 times without a warrant in the last decade. But if you asked SCSD directly, even recently they wouldn’t give you a definite figure.

As part of an ongoing investigation into stingray use nationwide, Ars filed a public records request with the SCSD this year. And at the end of April, the SCSD responded. The department claimed that “no responsive documents exist,” essentially saying that there are no records detailing how many times its stingray has been used.

That seemed a bit odd because in 2013, local Sacramento television station News 10 obtained a Homeland Security grant application written by the SCSD. The proposal aimed to upgrade the department’s stingray capabilities, and as part of its justification, the SCSD claimed to know how successful its device has been:

Through the use of existing (yet soon to be antiquated) equipment the Sacramento County Sheriff Department has assisted more than 26 local, State and Federal agencies with more than 500 successful criminal investigations and apprehensions of violent offenders.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – June 5, 2015

FBI: Apple and Google are helping ISIS by offering strong crypto;  US lawmaker: Next, we stop the NSA from weakening encryption;  Which edition of Windows 10 will you get for free?  Periscope’s new map view helps you find broadcasters by location;  10 Chrome and Firefox add-ons that streamline data sharing, storage, and security;  How to run Android apps on your Windows PC with AMIDuOS;  The Best Free Password Managers for 2015;  Don’t panic! How to fix 5 common PC emergencies;  Pro tip: Capture video at a higher frame rate with iPhone 6;  This Is Microsoft’s Big Secret Windows 10 Feature;  YouTube Users Say This Is The ‘Ad of the Decade’;   Five Android net scanning tools for mobile troubleshooting;  Multitask like a pro with these Mac tips;  How to add USB-C support to a Windows PC;  Netflix has four new kids shows inbound;  Yahoo pays NFL to stream regular-season game across globe for free;  Android TV Gets Over 600 New Apps.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Which edition of Windows 10 will you get for free? – Windows 10 will be available in Home and Professional editions, as well as an Enterprise version for big businesses. So which edition of Windows 10 will you get as part of your free upgrade? A reader asked me this question the other day, so I thought it’d be worth a look.

This Is Microsoft’s Big Secret Windows 10 Feature – The new system will be a bold entry into a massive new market. Microsoft announced last November Windows 10 would pack a technology called AllJoyn. An open source framework that encourages devices to be interoperable, AllJoyn was developed by the AllSeen Alliance, a group of more than 150 companies including the likes of Electrolux, Honeywell, LG, and Qualcomm that have banded together to make an open standard for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to speak to each other. This might seem like a load of hokum, but if it works out, AllJoyn integration could be huge not just for Windows users, but for the millions of people who can’t wrap their heads around setting up smart home products.

Yes, you’ll be able to do clean installs of the free Windows 10 upgrade – Windows 10 will be offered as a free upgrade to most Windows 7 and 8 users for one year after its July 29 launch. This has led, inevitably, to a number of questions about what happens to those who want or need to reinstall their operating system. Microsoft’s Gabe Aul has provided some much-needed clarification on this issue. On Twitter he confirmed that once upgraded, Windows 10 users will be able to perform clean installs of the operating system at any time, even after the one-year free period has ended. Users won’t be required to install Windows 7 or 8 and then re-upgrade, and they won’t need the Windows 7 or 8 product key, with Aul confirming that clean installs from an ISO will be possible.

10 Chrome and Firefox add-ons that streamline data sharing, storage, and security – Share data between devices, test a website’s infrastructure, encrypt data, and more with these cloud-based add-ons for Chrome and Firefox.

How to run Android apps on your Windows PC with AMIDuOS – Want to run your favorite Android apps on your Windows desktop, laptop, tablet or 2-in-1 system? American Megatrends – yes, that same company you’ve been seeing on PC BIOS screens since the 1980s – has a utility for you.

Periscope’s new map view helps you find broadcasters by location – The iOS version of Periscope, Twitter’s livestreaming app, received an update yesterday that brought with it a new map view. The new view lets users browse streams from specific locations around the world, selecting live broadcasts from different areas by zooming in on countries, cities, and towns. Streamers will see their broadcasts appear automatically on the map view if they enable location data sharing in the app. The addition goes some way to fixing Periscope’s biggest problem — namely, that it’s been tricky so far to find streams actually worth watching in the Twitter-owned app.

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Pro tip: Capture video at a higher frame rate with iPhone 6 – With the iPhone 6, Apple decided to let users choose how they wanted their videos to be recorded: either 30 FPS or 60 FPS. Cory Bohon shows you how to change this option and what it all means.

SoundHound’s new voice assistant app might be smarter than Siri – You’re probably familiar with SoundHound as a way to identify songs, but the company’s new app goes far beyond music ID. Hound is a voice search and control app that’s available first on Android. It stresses natural language and conversational interactions. The demo videos of the app in action are, admittedly, very impressive. Maybe it’ll give Google and Siri a run for their money. The app is being launched as an invite-only beta, but if you request access it shouldn’t take long to get in.

Chrome Now Automatically Pauses Flash Content That Isn’t ‘Central’ To A Web Page – Auto-playing Flash content can drain your laptop’s batteries (and, if it’s an auto-playing ad with audio, get on your nerves). Thankfully, Google has now partnered with Adobe to keep Flash on Chrome in check. Starting with today’s release of the latest Chrome desktop Beta, the browser will now automatically pause Flash animations that — in Google’s words — “aren’t central to the webpage.” Ideally, Google will pause the Flash content it thinks isn’t important right now and still let you keep watching that video you actually wanted to see. In case it gets it wrong, you can always click on the wrongly paused content to resume playback.

Facebook Lite Is A Stripped Down Android App For The Developing World – Today, Facebook is launching a bare-bones, low-resolution version of its Android app that works well on crummy networks or outdated phones, and burns much less data than its normal smartphone apps. Facebook Lite is designed specifically for the developing world to help the social network on-board its next billion users. Facebook Lite doesn’t offer data-intensive features like videos or Nearby Friends. But if users are willing to accept that and lower-resolution image thumbnails, they can access Facebook quick, smooth, and cheap from the most remote corners of the planet. You can watch a quick video demo of Facebook Lite below:

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Five Android net scanning tools for mobile troubleshooting – Out of nowhere your network can go five shades of wonky and you are at the other end of your campus–and the only tool you have on hand is your Android device. A network scan is a must and, fortunately, Android can comply. The Android ecosystem offers plenty of tools for network administrators. But which ones you should be using? I’ve dug into the realm of network scanners to find five that could easily wind up as your go-to mobile scanners. Read on and see if any of these particular apps meet your needs.

How to Build Your Own PC – Let’s face it, no one really builds their own desktop PC anymore, right? Wrong, actually. DIY may not be all it used to be, but it’s still a thriving sector of the PC industry, and one that any serious computer user—we mean the type of person who cares more about what a computer can do than how small an envelope it can slide into—should be aware of. Because, if you want the strongest, most adaptable, most upgradeable, and most personal computer you can possibly get, there’s no way around it: You need to build it yourself.

Don’t panic! How to fix 5 common PC emergencies – Your PC may not be as essential to you as your smartphone, but chances are it’s still pretty damn important. So it’s completely understandable if your first reaction is to freeze and freak out when you run into a PC emergency, such as a broken screen, accidentally-deleted important file, or a virus. But panicking is counter-productive, because time is often of the essence. Don’t worry. While you can’t call 9-1-1, here’s what you can do to fix five common PC emergencies.

Microsoft talks about ever smaller Windows 10 PCs, including one inside a power adapter – At its Computex 2015 keynote address Microsoft talked about Windows 10 in many form factors, and showed off two new ultra-small PCs designed for connecting to TVs without being noticable.

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Multitask like a pro with these Mac tips – Knowing your way around your Mac desktop and windows can help you get more work done. Here’s some tips to help you increase your productivity.

How to add USB-C support to a Windows PC – Feel like you are missing out on all the USB-C fun that owners of the new MacBook are having? Here’s how you can add support for the new standard.

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With over 1 million users of Office 2016 preview, Microsoft turns on a few more features – Microsoft has announced that there are over 1 million users of Office 2016 and that they are adding new features to the apps, including improved file sharing and updates to Version History.

iPhone laser dongle makes measuring a snap – The low-power laser works with a camera app to measure distance as well as objects such as wall hangings.

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Apple recalls Beats Pill XL due to fire risk – Apple is voluntarily recalling 222,000 Beats Pill XL speakers following eight reports of batteries overheating and one user who was burned.

Security:

Microsoft provides privacy dashboard ahead of Windows 10 launch – The newly-minted privacy dashboard (included in the Security and Privacy section of Microsoft’s account administration page) gives users links to control data stored for personalizing their experience on Bing, what apps and services use their information, whether Microsoft personalizes ads for them and whether the company can market to them via email. It’s part of a move by the company to unify and simplify most of its service agreements and privacy policies for various products under one document.

The Best Free Password Managers for 2015 – Think remembering dozens of strong, unique passwords is too much trouble? Consider how much trouble you’d have if you lost access to your email account because the password was “password.” With a free password manager, cranking up your security is no trouble at all.

Researcher warns popular gaming plug-in puts millions of web users at risk from data thieves – A researcher is warning that a gaming plug-in installed on over 200 million PCs contains a flaw that could let attackers steal users’ data from websites they’re logged into, such as their Web mail and social networking accounts. The technology in question, from Unity Technologies, is used by hundreds of thousands of developers to create online games and other interactive 3D content. The flaw, which the researcher says hasn’t been patched yet, is located in the Unity Web Player, a plug-in that needs to be installed inside browsers in order to display Unity-based Web apps.

List open ports and listening services – One of the biggest headaches for network administrators is open ports on devices. Unless you manually installed the operating system on every device on your network, ensuring to close down all unessential ports, you run the risk of attack. The ports you should disable will vary by system and may even be dictated by the needs of specialized software (for instance, QuickBooks requires specific ports — determined by release — in order to function). You need to come up with a list of ports that either can or must remain open. Once you have that list, you can set about closing up shop on those machines.

Chinese hackers breach US government, compromise data of millions – Chinese hackers have been blamed for an attack at the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management which may have compromised the data of up to 4 million people in every federal agency.

China Calls Accusations of Links to Hacking ‘Irresponsible’ – China said Friday that any allegations that it was involved in breaking into U.S. government computers are irresponsible. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular news briefing that Beijing hopes the U.S. would be “less suspicious and stop making any unverified allegations, but show more trust and participate more in cooperation.”

Air gaps still a cheap and effective defence for critical networks: Kaspersky – Physically-separate networks aren’t always the rule for industrial networks these days, said Eugene Kaspersky, but they should be.

Company News:

Microsoft opens Transparency Center in Brussels; shows governments its source code – Microsoft is looking to show the EU that its products are secure and that user data is being treated with privacy in mind. To that end the company is opening a Transparency Center in Brussels.

eBay Valet Launches A Clothing Resale Service Focused On High-End Brands – eBay today is expanding its professional selling service known as eBay Valet, where select, pre-approved Bay sellers will handle listing, selling and shipping items on consumers’ behalf in exchange for a split of the sales. The service will now accept high-end clothing, the company says, marking eBay’s desire to compete with a growing number of e-commerce sites and online marketplaces that help consumers sell their high-quality, secondhand fashion items, including apparel and accessories. Today, there are dozens of these services, including sites like The RealReal, ThredUp, Poshmark, Twice, Threadflip, Tradesy, and more.

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Alibaba to invest $194 million in Chinese financial media firm – The alliance aims to help Alibaba expand into financial-information services by taking advantage of the Chinese e-commerce giant’s rich resources in customer data and cloud computing technology.

Designbook, in trademark tussle with Facebook, gets support from governor – Earlier this week, Vermont startup Designbook revealed that it had been approached by lawyers from social-networking giant Facebook, which is pushing it to change its name. Facebook has filed an opposition to the trademark “Designbook” at the US Patent and Trademark Office. Yesterday, Designbook got an unexpected powerful ally: the governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin. Having read about the trademark tiff in news reports, Shumlin wrote a letter (PDF) to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to leave Designbook alone. “I was very concerned to read about Facebook’s unnecessary bullying of a Vermont startup called Designbook,” wrote Shumlin. The letter continues:

F-Secure snaps up security consultation firm nSense – F-Secure has acquired nSense, a Danish company which specializes in security consultation and vulnerability assessment. Announced on Wednesday, the acquisition of nSense is designed to bolster F-Secure’s position in European markets as a “prominent security vendor.” nSense’s expertise lies in security consultation, vulnerability assessment, pen testing and PCI DSS services to financial institutions, service providers and large enterprise firms.

Games and Entertainment:

Android TV Gets Over 600 New Apps To Choose From In The Play Store – Google’s second foray into television, Android TV, has been a bit slow off the starting blocks in some respects – app support was one area where it definitely felt a little threadbare. Now, however, Google is expanding its software catalogue considerably, adding over 600 new apps via a Play Store update today for Android TV devices, including the Nexus Player. The new 600+ apps are also categorized into 20 new collections that help it easy to find specific types of apps like movies, sports, news, multiplayer games and more. The update should be showing up on compatible devices now, and you’ll see the new content in the store navigation area of your device.

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Netflix has four new kids shows inbound – On Wednesday, Netflix announced four new animated series for kids, one of which will be arriving this coming September and the rest later on in 2016. There is Puffin Rock, which is an animated series for preschoolers that will be launching later this year. Joining it in 2016 will be a Netflix Original Series dubbedTarzan and Jane, Luna Petunia, another preschooler series that is inspired by Cirque du Soleils, and, finally, Kulipari: An Army of Frogs.

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Planetside 2 online shooter launches June 23 – Sony had a decent online shooter back in the day called Planetside. This game first landed back when there weren’t many massive online shooters for PC gamers to choose from. If you were a fan of that game Sony has announced that Planetside 2 will be coming to the PS4 on June 23 in Europe and North America. The original Planetside game was for the PC.

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First Gaming Hall of Fame class includes Pong, Tetris, and Mario – The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, has named the first six games to its new World Video Game Hall of Fame. Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Doom, and World of Warcraft were chosen for inclusion by an advisory committee of about two dozen journalists, scholars, and game historians. The goal was to choose games “that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general,” according to a statement from the museum, which also houses the International Center for the History of Electronic Games.

PS4’s Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection confirmed for October release – Only a few hours after gamers caught wind of the announcement via a PlayStation Store slip-up, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection has been confirmed and is scheduled for release on October 9th. The PlayStation 4 game will be a remastered collection of the first three titles in the series that were released on the PS3, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The announcement also included a trailer for the action-adventure trilogy, which you can check out below.

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Yahoo pays NFL to stream regular-season game across globe for free – The game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, which will take place on October 25 in London, will also air “exclusively” on Yahoo’s Web and app platforms across the globe, with the exception of the teams’ local TV affiliates—meaning that no cable or satellite network, including paid services like DirecTV Sunday Ticket, will air the game. Yahoo will rely on a CBS crew to produce the broadcast, but no further details about the match’s presentation were announced. Also unannounced is whether Yahoo’s streams to other countries will have other languages dubbed over the action.

Off Topic (Sort of):

YouTube Users Say This Is The ‘Ad of the Decade’ – YouTube’s users recently voted for the best advertisements of the past 10 years as part of the online video site’s 10th anniversary celebrations — and there was some fierce (and adorable) competition. While Volkswagen’s “The Force” stole hearts the world over when it debuted during the 2011 Super Bowl, Turkish Airline’s “Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout” captured the top title for Ad of the Decade.

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Mad John McAfee: ‘Can you live in a society that is more paranoid than I’m supposed to be?’ – Infosec 2015 John McAfee delivered a surprisingly non-controversial keynote speech to the London Infosec Conference on Wednesday afternoon, lauding the value of privacy. McAfee’s talk was essentially a rant against governments’ security-compromising activities, summed up by his statement: “We cannot allow a fearful government to create weaknesses in the very software we are trying to protect. By putting backdoors in the software, we have given hackers the access we are trying to prevent.”

Teacher suspended after using cellular jammer in class – Anyone who has worked in education since mobile phones and smartphones have become so common knows that it is very hard to keep students off the devices during class. Students have become very adept at using devices without teacher knowledge. A teacher at a high school in Pasco County Florida has found himself in hot water with the district and parents after taking matters into his own hands to stop smartphone use in class.

Google Brings New Street View Imagery To 40 Remote Islands And Underwater Locations – Google launched a new batch of regular and underwater Street View imagery today that lets you swim with humpback whales off the Cook Islands, dive with parrot fish off the coast of Bali, or walk on a beach in American Samoa. In total, the company added more than 40 new Street View locations with this update — one of the biggest releases of new underwater imagery since the company first launched this project in 2012.

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Seven toxic mini-frog species discovered in mountain cloud forests – Seven new species of extra-tiny frog have been discovered in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest and shown in research published this week. The extent of what we know about the miniaturized frog genus Brachycephalus has expanded greatly, suddenly, as this paper shows 5 years of exploration revealing seven new species of the creature. Each of these frogs is very brightly colored, and each has a highly potent neurotoxin in their skin. In other words, though they may look tasty, you should not eat them.

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ATM Industry Association announces Windows 10 migration plan, will skip Windows 8 – The ATM Industry Association has announced that the ATMs running on older Windows versions will be upgraded to Windows 10 when it becomes available as part of its 2020 migration plan.

NASA drone tracking trials tap Verizon towers – NASA and Verizon are working together on air traffic control for drones, aiming to use existing cellphone towers to track and even ground unmanned aircraft. The deal will see the space agency kick off trials at its Ames Research Center in California this summer, focusing on small, low-altitude drones which currently don’t make it onto the radar of traditional air traffic management. The goal is an automated system which would open the skies to drone delivery, something which already has Amazon and Google throwing their money at NASA.

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Gawker Staff Votes To Unionize – Gawker Media’s editorial staff will be joining the Writers Guild of America, East. The efforts to bring the company into the WGAE (a union best known for representing film and television writers) have drawn broader attention because Gawker is now the first online-only media organization to unionize.

Something to think about:

“Take control of your lives. Say ‘I am going to be responsible for myself, at least to some extent. Governments cannot protect you.”

–      John McAfee

Today’s Free Downloads:

Zenmap  – Zenmap is the official Nmap Security Scanner GUI. It is a multi-platform (Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, BSD, etc.) free and open source application which aims to make Nmap easy for beginners to use while providing advanced features for experienced Nmap users. Frequently used scans can be saved as profiles to make them easy to run repeatedly. A command creator allows interactive creation of Nmap command lines. Scan results can be saved and viewed later. Saved scan results can be compared with one another to see how they differ. The results of recent scans are stored in a searchable database.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FBI: Apple and Google are helping ISIS by offering strong crypto – Apple and Google are helping terrorism by offering users encrypted communications, a senior FBI official has told the House Homeland Security Committee in Congress, and US law enforcement needs to stop them from doing it.

Michael Steinbach, assistant director in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, told Congress that ISIS and other terrorist groups are using commercially available encryption technology to mask their activities, leading law enforcement surveillance to “go dark.”

As far as the FBI is concerned, private companies must “build technological solutions to prevent encryption above all else,” the Washington Post reports Steinbach as saying.

That’s a pretty sharp reverse ferret from the FBI, which four years ago was recommending encryption as a basic security measure. But Steinbach said evildoers are hiding behind US-made technology to mask their actions.

US lawmaker: Next, we stop the NSA from weakening encryption – Hot on the heels of President Barack Obama signing the Freedom Act into law Wednesday, a bipartisan congressional effort is now focusing their efforts on preventing the government from weakening encryption.

An amendment put forward by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY, 4th) to a recent appropriations bill passed by overwhelming majority of 383-43 late in the day Wednesday.

Massie, a strong advocate for privacy and civil liberties, explained on the phone Thursday that his eight-line amendment will prevent the NSA, which remains an encryption expert, from working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to weaken or compromise encryption.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA, 19th) and Ted Poe (R-TX, 2nd) also threw their weight behind the amendment.

The NSA is still conducting mass surveillance of the US internet to find cyberattacks – The NSA is scanning US web traffic for specific malware signatures, according to new Snowden documents published by The New York Times and ProPublica. Previous documents have shown the NSA and GCHQ collecting data from undersea data cables, but this is the most comprehensive look at how the NSA uses that data to zero in on specific activities or actors on the web.

According to the new documents, the scanning is enabled by broad legal powers, granted by the Department of Justice and FISA court in 2012. An initial Justice Department order (interpreting Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act) authorized the NSA to target data based on specific IP addresses or threat signatures that were linked to foreign nations. In addition to its surveillance operations, the NSA is tasked with defending official US networks from digital intrusions, a task that’s grown increasingly difficult as states like China have grown more sophisticated.

But according to the documents, limiting the scans to foreign states was too restrictive for the NSA. Over the course of 2012, NSA director Keith Alexander lobbied the Justice Department to extend the signature-based scans to malware that hadn’t been linked to state actors, but his efforts were unsuccessful. Still, the agency  Specific malware programs are often reused, even between criminals and governments, so it’s notoriously difficult for researchers to connect a tactic to a specific actor.

Political deleted-tweet archive shuttered by Twitter over “privacy expectation” – The Politwoops website, which launched in 2012 to keep tabs on tweets deleted by known politicians, saw its feed dry up in the middle of May with no announcement. After Gawker reporter J.K. Trotter began investigating the story this week, he got the answer that Politwoops’ founders, the “government transparency” non-profit Sunlight Foundation, hadn’t: Twitter itself revoked the site’s access to Twitter’s API.

“We strongly support Sunlight’s mission of increasing transparency in politics and using civic tech and open data to hold government accountable to constituents,” a Twitter representative told Gawker on Wednesday, “but preserving deleted Tweets violates our developer agreement. Honoring the expectation of user privacy for all accounts is a priority for us, whether the user is anonymous or a member of Congress.”

The last major update to Twitter’s developer agreement came on May 18, three days after Politwoops’ access had been revoked. Twitter had announced changes to the agreement in April, and that announcement revolved largely around the company moving its non-American account data to Irish data centers.

U.K. State Surveillance Powers Challenged Under Human Rights Law – The U.K. government is facing a legal challenge to surveillance legislation that was rushed through parliament last year. At the time the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (now DRIPA) was criticized for granting the government overly broad and draconian powers to retain digital comms data — and for the lack of parliamentary time afforded for proper scrutiny. The bill was given cross-party support, becoming law within just three days after minimal public debate.

A case is being heard in the U.K. High Court today and tomorrow, brought by civil rights campaign group Liberty and two MPs: the Labour Party’s Tom Watson and the Conservative’s David Davis. They are challenging DRIPA on Human Rights grounds — referencing the rights to respect for private and family life, and of protection of personal data.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – June 3, 2015

Tim Cook Delivers Blistering Speech On Encryption, Privacy;  16 cool things to try with the new Google Photos;  Is your PC overheating? Here’s how to tell;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies Last Week Were;  The Best IP Cameras for Home Surveillance;  Apple’s HomeKit is here;  Intel unveils ten new chips;  Windows 10 pricing: If you’re not upgrading, it’ll cost up to $199;  Ten tips to help Windows users transition to OS X;  New SOHO router security audit uncovers over 60 flaws in 22 models;  6 Features Disappearing in Windows 10 (and How to Replace Them);  Batteriser is a $2.50 gadget that extends disposable battery life by 800 percent;  Steam now offers video game refunds for ‘any reason';  Pinterest Unveils Buyable Pins;  New exploit leaves most Macs vulnerable to permanent backdooring;  Supreme Court overturns Facebook threats conviction;  Remote Utilities Free.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Apple’s Tim Cook Delivers Blistering Speech On Encryption, Privacy – Yesterday evening, Apple CEO Tim Cook was honored for ‘corporate leadership’ during EPIC’s Champions of Freedom event in Washington. Cook spoke remotely to the assembled audience on guarding customer privacy, ensuring security and protecting their right to encryption. Cook lost no time in directing comments at companies (obviously, though not explicitly) like Facebook and Google, which rely on advertising to users based on the data they collect from them for a portion, if not a majority, of their income.

“I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” said Cook. “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

“We don’t think you should ever have to trade it for a service you think is free but actually comes at a very high cost. This is especially true now that we’re storing data about our health, our finances and our homes on our devices,” Cook went on, getting even more explicit when talking about user privacy.

16 cool things to try with the new Google Photos – You’ve seen the first impressions. You’ve tried the app yourself. Now check out some of the awesome advanced features tucked inside the new Google Photos. If so, get ready: Google’s new image service packs some serious power. And if not — well, what are you waiting for? Beyond the basics, here are 16 awesome advanced features tucked inside the new Google Photos. Be warned: Some of these may blow your mind.

Is your PC overheating? Here’s how to tell – An overheated PC can reduce efficiency and wear down components. Here’s how to find out if yours is running too hot.

The Best IP Cameras for Home Surveillance – One of the biggest benefits of a connected home is being able to know what’s going on when you’re not actually there. Whether you’re checking in on your kids, pets, or an exotic jewel collection, a home surveillance camera is a great tool for keeping an eye on things from afar. As you can see in the list below, most of the home surveillance cameras on the market are roughly in the $200 range, but some of them also require an additional fee to store recorded video in the cloud. We break down any extra fees in our reviews, so it’s worth taking a look at each to find out which one fits your budget. Then again, you can’t really put a price on peace of mind.

Batteriser is a $2.50 gadget that extends disposable battery life by 800 percent – A completely new alkaline battery is rated to generate 1.5 volts, but once its output drops below 1.35 or even 1.4 volts, it effectively becomes useless to many devices. The battery’s chemical cocktail is still loaded with juice, but the circuitry in many gadgets (especially more sophisticated ones, like Bluetooth keyboards and bathroom scales) considers the battery dead. This is where Batteriser comes in. It’s essentially a voltage booster that sucks every last drop of useable energy from ostensibly spent batteries. So, instead of using just 20 percent of all the power hidden inside of your Duracells and Energizers, Batteriser makes effective use of the remaining 80 percent.

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Pinterest Unveils Buyable Pins, A Way To Purchase Things Directly Within Pinterest – Pinterest unveiled what it’s calling “buyable pins” at an event at its headquarters in San Francisco today. Here’s how it works: Rich Pins — pins which have much more information than a normal link, such as the ingredients for a recipe — will get a new button that allows users to purchase things directly from partners that it’s working for. Users will see prices, be able to select specific types of a product (like the color), and then they can tap the button to buy the product. That item then arrives at the user’s door.

Imgur Introduces Native Ads On The Web And Overhauls Its Android App – There’s lots of news from Imgur, one of the internet’s most popular places for funny images and GIFs, today. The site has officially launched native advertising, and made significant changes to its Android app. Six-year-old Imgur, which was bootstrapped until it raised $40 million last year, is already profitable, but the company revealed last year that it planned to introduce ads to boost monetization.

Instagram Beefs Up Ads With App Install And Buy Buttons, Interest Targeting, API – Instagram is ready to make some serious money. After a year and half of format experiments and basic targeting, Instagram is giving advertisers much more powerful tools. Those include “Shop Now”, “Install Now”, and “Sign up” buttons, interest and demographic targeting, and an API for efficiently managing huge campaigns. Since their launch in October 2013, Instagram’s ads were best for big brands who just wanted you to remember them. Now they’ll work much better for direct marketers who want you to do or buy something.

Netflix is testing showing commercials before and after your videos – Though these ads are just a limited test, they do seem inevitable. At some point, Netflix will either need or desire a new revenue stream, and it’s most likely easier to rely on the sale of ads than the creation of highly desirable original content that’ll draw in new users. Not everything can be as big of a hit as Orange is the New Black or House of Cards. For now, if you’re one of the unlucky few to be in a test market, just use the time to hit the bathroom or to pop into the kitchen to dunk a spoon in the peanut butter jar.

Apple’s HomeKit is here: “Siri, turn on my lights” – Today Apple’s smart home ecosystem HomeKit launches with brands like Elgato, Insteon, Lutron, Ecobee, and iHome. Just ahead of the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2015), HomeKit has launched with partners bringing hardware to the market. It’s been nearly one year* to the day since Apple’s HomeKit system was first revealed at WWDC 2014, and here we’re seeing partners launching products aplenty, some that’ll be carried by Apple Stores, some that will launch independently in stores around the world. Soon you’ll be able to tell Siri to turn your lights on when you enter your home – soon!

Ten tips to help Windows users transition to OS X – The Mac platform now has more users than at any time in its long history — and more and more Windows veterans are making the switch. But moving from Windows to the Mac can be a bit of a challenge. In this article, we’ll offer some helpful tips that will make this transition a bit easier, and help your users get up and running on OS X in no time at all.

Firefox Integrates Pocket, Adds Distraction-Free Reader View – Mozilla’s Firefox now features a full integration with the Pocket read-it-later service for saving text and video. In addition, Reader View now offers users a distraction-free reading mode that’s similar to Apple’s Reader mode in Safari and the functionality of the popular Readability extension and bookmarklets.

Windows 10 pricing: If you’re not upgrading, it’ll cost up to $199 – After confirming the rumored July 29 release date for Windows 10, Microsoft has now confirmed the pricing for its new operating system. As previously announced, upgrades from Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 are free for the first year of availability. Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, and Windows 8/8.1 users will receive Windows 10 Home. Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Windows 8.1 Pro users will receive Windows 10 Pro. Enterprise users get nothing, because upgrading is usually taken care of as part of their license agreement anyway.

Windows 10 Home users may not be able to opt out of Automatic Updates – The language used in the upgrade details for those that qualify for the Windows 10 Home edition appear to suggest that users on that SKU will not be able to opt out of automatic updates.

Microsoft explains what you’ll lose by upgrading to Windows 10 – Microsoft announced today that it will be launching Windows 10 on July 29th, encouraging Windows 7 and 8.1 users to reserve their free upgrade with a notification in their task bar. However, while the company has been busy highlighting all the shiny new features in the upcoming OS, it’s been a bit quieter when it comes to spelling out the limitations — including making updates automatic for Windows 10 Home users.

6 Features Disappearing in Windows 10 (and How to Replace Them) – As noted by Paul Thurott, a number of old (some quite old) features will not make the jump to Windows 10. But that doesn’t mean you have to live without them when you upgrade! Here are some of the items Microsoft will be assassinating in Windows 10—and ways to work around them.

Two reasons your BlackBerry is about to get better in and out of the office – A pair of software updates for all BlackBerry 10 devices bring camera improvements, smarter notification management during meetings, and a new look to Blend.

Security:

New SOHO router security audit uncovers over 60 flaws in 22 models – In yet another testament of the awful state of home router security, a group of security researchers uncovered more than 60 vulnerabilities in 22 router models from different vendors, most of which were distributed by ISPs to customers. The flaws, most of which affect more than one router model, could allow attackers to bypass authentication on the devices; inject rogue code into their Web-based management interfaces; trick users into executing rogue actions on their routers when visiting compromised websites; read and write information on USB storage devices attached to the affected routers; reboot the devices, and more.

New exploit leaves most Macs vulnerable to permanent backdooring – The attack, according to a blog post published Friday by well-known OS X security researcher Pedro Vilaca, affects Macs shipped prior to the middle of 2014 that are allowed to go into sleep mode. He found a way to reflash a Mac’s BIOS using functionality contained in userland, which is the part of an operating system where installed applications and drivers are executed. By exploiting vulnerabilities such as those regularly found in Safari and other Web browsers, attackers can install malicious firmware that survives hard drive reformatting and reinstallation of the operating system.

Google wants to ‘put you in control’ of privacy and security with new My Account hub – Google’s says its new ‘My Account’ hub will make it easier for users to protect their data and put them in control, while a new information site will help them understand privacy and security issues.

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SourceForge stops bundling ads into software without permission after GIMP fiasco – Code repository SourceForge said Monday it will stop including third-party offers without developers’ consent into projects that are no longer maintained, a practice it briefly tried but was widely criticized. The inclusion of third-party offers is a way for SourceForge to generate revenue, but not one that resonates with its community and its open-source software ethos. SourceForge, once a dominant site, has lost much ground to GitHub in recent years.

Company News:

Yahoo tries legal pirouettes in court, breaks neck – Yahoo, the once-mighty search-engine company, executed some remarkably graceless legal pirouettes as it tried to defend its invasive email scanning practices — scanning of emails not sent by Yahoo Mail customers who had signed off on the terms of service, but the emails of people who had sent email to Yahoo users. All to no avail. Last week (May 26), a federal judge approved a class-action lawsuit against Yahoo. But a review of the arguments that Yahoo tried in court is rather entertaining.

Disconnect.Me Files Antitrust Case Against Google In Europe Over Banned  – As the European Commission turns the heat up on Google over allegations that the company has abused its dominant market position in areas like search and mobile to create an anticompetitive environment for other online businesses, another small startup has joined the chorus of those crying foul. Disconnect Inc. — a B Corporation startup co-founded by ex-Googlers to build software to help Internet users block ads and other third-party services that tracks them or potentially releases malware — has filed an antitrust complaint against Google, claiming the Android giant is abusing its market position by banning Disconnect’s latest Android app, Disconnect Mobile, from the Google Play store.

Intel unveils ten new chips, focuses on graphics – On stage at Computex, Intel unveiled ten new processor models, divided equally between mobile and desktop classes. All of the new chips feature Iris graphics and focus on media performance.

AMD takes aim at the notebook market with new 12-core processors – Announced Wednesday at Computex, AMD’s latest A-Series processors will come in 3 flavors and are designed for serious online streaming and gaming. The 3 variants come packing discrete graphics cores in the form of a Radeon R6 or R7 for better visual performance, and the chips in range will have a total number of either 10 or 12 cores. This translates to a piece of silicon loaded with four x86 processing cores and either six or eight graphics processor unit (GPU) cores. Codenamed Carrizo, the processing cores use the new “Excavator” chips, which are designed for laptops, and pack either a six-core Radeon R6 on the A10-8700P and A8-8600P, or an eight-core Radeon R7 on the FX-8800P to handle graphics.

Intel buys out rival Altera for $16.7 billion – Intel, one of the largest chipmakers around, is buying one of its rivals, Altera. The latter was focused on specialized processors that are increasingly being used alongside traditional servers.

Uber hit with another harassment case in New Delhi – Another sexual harassment case involving Uber has surfaced in New Delhi, where a driver for the ridesharing service has been arrested for allegedly kissing a rider’s hand, then attempting to kiss her on the mouth, at which point she ran away. The driver who has been accused, Vinod Kumar, reportedly has been driving with Uber since May 4, and was arrested following a preliminary probe into the claims. According to an unnamed police official, the driver “is in police custody and” is being questioned about the matter.

Microsoft grabs another mobile app shop, confirms Wunderlist purchase – Microsoft today confirmed that it has acquired Wunderlist’s German developer, notching another small shop with a stable of mobile productivity apps. Rumors of the acquisition circulated Monday, prompted by a report in the Wall Street Journal that claimed a deal had been signed for between $100 million and $200 million. Microsoft and 6Wunderkinder GmbH, headquartered in Berlin, acknowledged the purchase today.

Games and Entertainment:

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? 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 fire-breathing $1000 models to behemoths with not one, but two graphics processors and custom watercooling loops. Graphics cards are expensive. Choosing one can be complicated. But it won’t be after reading this. Let’s dig in.

Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm thunders ahead of E3 – Ever wondered what would happen if Diablo and Tyrael ever clashed? Or if Illidan would be a match against Kerridan? These are the stuff that dreams and fanfiction are made of, but now you can actually make them reality, somewhat. Yes, Blizzard has finally fully unleashed Heroes of the Storm onto the masses, allowing players to finally pit iconic characters from Blizzards many and unrelated IPs against each other in a situation that would never happen otherwise in canon. All for the sweet low price of free.

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Watch The Trailer For ‘Henry,’ The Second VR Movie From Oculus Story Studio – Oculus made waves earlier this year when it announced it would be developing its own original film content for consumption on its VR devices – now there’s a second movie coming out of the Oculus Story Studio, directed by Ramiro Lopez Dau, who had a hand in both Brave and Monsters University from Pixar. The thinking behind the short feature was to create essentially VR’s first truly hug-worthy character, according to the creators, and to build an experience that differentiates itself from epic sci-fi and more core gamer themes. Oculus is clearly looking to advertise some of its more mainstream appeal ahead of its consumer device launch next year.

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Steam now offers video game refunds for ‘any reason’ – Valve’s online games platform Steam has added a refund policy. According to a newly published page, “you can request a refund for nearly any purchase on Steam — for any reason.” As long as a player has purchased the game within the past 14 days and played less than two hours, they can file a request through Steam’s support system. Valve will return the money within a week through the player’s payment method or, failing that, Steam Wallet.

I’d start playing World of Warcraft again if it looked like this – World of Warcraft’s Elwynn Forest got a massive upgrade from modder Daniel Luchau this week. Sadly, it’s not playable — just a short video showing off what the Unreal Engine 4 is capable of in the hands of a very creative individual with access to the right assets.

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Get your caps ready, Fallout 4 is likely on the way – The long-awaited next release of the Fallout series appears to be on the way. A countdown indicates more information will be available tomorrow, and we’re guessing a demo will be shown at E3.

The 10 Most-Pirated Movies Last Week Were – There are two new flicks that made it onto the most-pirated movies list this week: San Andreas Quake and Unfinished Business, starring Jhey Castles and Vince Vaughn, respectively. If you want to learn more about these movies, as well as the eight other films that were popular among pirates, check out the slideshow linked both above and below for more information.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Supreme Court overturns Facebook threats conviction – The Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction of a Pennsylvania man for making violent posts on Facebook in a case that tests the boundaries of free speech on the Internet. The conviction of Anthony D. Elonis was based on the idea that Facebook comments about his ex-wife, former co-workers, shooting up a school and harming law enforcement would make a reasonable person feel threatened. In a 7-2 ruling Monday, the court reversed his conviction, stating that the threats weren’t enough to convict.

US Army testing tiny new drones better suited to Batman – We’ve seen an increasing number of tiny drones meant for consumers hitting the market recently, but the PD-100 reportedly can also deliver a clear, real-time video feed and stay aloft for 25 minutes at a stretch. But most important for aspiring superheroes on the go, it also launches from a small box that hooks to a utility belt and stores all data sent from the drone, just in case it should fall into the hands of bad guys. The drone can be piloted with a one-handed video game-like controller or pilot itself to pre-selected points.

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The PD-100 is a tiny spy. Prox Dynamics

8 Dumb Tech Predictions From Smart People – It’s a fact that even the smartest people on the planet say some pretty dumb things. Many times the dumb things they say seem smart at the time, but in the end, this is the Internet and nobody really gives a crap about context. So in that spirit, here’s a visual journey through some of the head-scratching words spoken by really smart people in technology and science.

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Here’s the Perfectly Logical Reason Airplane Windows Have Holes – If you’re a fan of the window seat, you’ve probably noticed a small hole at the bottom of airplane windows — and wondered why on earth that tiny thing is there. As it turns out, the hole is called a breather hole or a bleed hole, and it serves an important safety function, according to a Slate column by pilot Mark Vanhoenacker.

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Stuart Gleave—Getty Images

6.1B Smartphone Users Globally By 2020, Overtaking Basic Fixed Phone Subscriptions – By 2020, we will see a tipping point of sorts, when globally there will be 6.1 smartphone users, finally overtaking the number of fixed line subscriptions. The numbers come from the latest Mobility Report from Ericsson, annual research the telecoms company conducts using data from around 100 carriers globally. Those 6.1 billion smartphone users works out to some 70 percent of the worlds population using smartphones in five years’ time, a measure of just how central these devices are becoming to how we communicate and do much more.

Elon Musk would make the best tech president, says survey – Technically Incorrect: Which tech leader would you like to see as president? Respondents to a survey vote for President Musk.

Something to think about:

“Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.”

–     Mark Twain

Today’s Free Downloads:

Remote Utilities Free – Unleash the full power of professional remote control software by installing Remote Utilities across your entire Windows network. Remote Utilities provides built-in tools for easy network deployment. You will be able to administer thousands of remote PCs in minutes.

Active Directory Authentication – Log into Remote Utilities using Active Directory accounts

Built-in MSI configuration tool – Pre-configure the Remote Utilities installer file before distributing it across the network

Built-in Remote Install tool – Use our remote deployment tool to install or upgrade Remote Utilities on all network PCs

No reinstallation after trial – Bulk register your PCs in a network with your license and you are done

Connect using a local IP address or DNS name – Direct connection to your network PCs

Lifetime license and software maintenance contract

Limitations: Free for business use on 10 remote PCs.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

President Obama signs bill curbing NSA powers into law – President Barack Obama has signed the USA Freedom Act bill into law, reinstating the Patriot Act’s controversial Section 215 but curbing some of the NSA’s broad surveillance powers.

The bill was passed by the Senate earlier today following a political standoff. Although the House passed the bill last month, the Senate only was able to pass it one day after the Patriot Act’s provisions expired, following a major debate where several proposed amendments to the Freedom Act were shot down.

The FBI made fake companies so it could fly spy planes over US cities – The FBI has used at least 13 shell companies to conceal a fleet of surveillance planes that recently flew over more than 30 cities in 11 states, according to an Associated Press investigation published today.

According to the AP’s report, the low-flying planes are equipped with video, and operate without a judge’s warrant — although the government says they’re for specific investigations. The AP traced the companies — with names like FVX Research and KQM Aviation — that were used to keep the fleet of at least 50 FBI planes under wraps. Many of the companies’ documents were signed by a “Robert Lindley,” but the government would not confirm to the AP whether that was a government employee.

In November, The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Justice Department had been equipping planes with so-called “dirtboxes,” machines that could scoop up data on cellphones below, which the AP confirms in its report. But the scope and limits of the project are still obscure.

What Those Mysterious FBI Planes Might Be Carrying – Following a Washington Post report last month into the mysterious aircraft circling over the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore, researchers have been finding more and more of these mysterious flights above cities across the US. The planes are mostly single-engine Cessna aircraft, all registered under obviously bogus companies with names like “NG Research,” “KQM Aviation,” and “OBD Leasing.” More than a dozen are registered to P.O. boxes in Bristow, Virginia, a small town with only 29,346 residents. One of the boxes is openly listed as belonging to the Department of Justice, the FBI’s parent agency.

A few months ago, this all sounded like some crackpot conspiracy theory. Now the FBI is acknowledging for the first time that not only is it behind the fake companies flying these planes, but that it usually does so without any judge’s approval, according to an AP report.

The Bureau says the planes are used to support specific ongoing investigations. It also bizarrely claims that its “aviation program is not secret” and that the planes “are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance.” Both of those claims are fairly dubious.

US airport screeners missed 95% of weapons, explosives in undercover tests – Transportation Security Administration screeners allowed banned weapons and mock explosives through airport security checkpoints 95 percent of the time, according to the agency’s own undercover testing.

ABC News reported the results on Monday, but Ars could not independently confirm them. According to ABC News, a Homeland Security Inspector General report showed that agents failed to detect weapons and explosives in 67 out of 70 undercover operations. The report said:

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was apparently so frustrated by the findings he sought a detailed briefing on them last week at TSA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to sources. US officials insisted changes have already been made at airports to address vulnerabilities identified by the latest tests.

Faced with ban, tech giants stay silent over Russia censorship laws – Russia isn’t exactly the world’s favorite state at the moment.

In between stifling freedom of expression and jailing punk rockers, becoming a haven for homophobia and invading Crimea, it’s now cracking the whip on international companies doing business within its borders.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter face a ban in the country if they do not comply with Russia’s recently ratified media laws. Introduced by the Kremlin and passed into law last year, bloggers with more than a modest following must register with the government. Companies operating in the country must also store citizens’ data in the country to allow the government’s access.

The reason? So the Kremlin can demand that any data that calls for “unsanctioned protests and unrest” can be pulled off the country’s internet, according to Vadim Ampelonsky, a spokesperson for Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor, in a statement to Reuters.

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