Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 9, 2015

US cops have killed more people in the last month than British police have killed since 1900;  If you called anyone overseas from 1992-2013, the DEA probably knew about it;  Think Windows’s Built-In Antivirus Will Keep You Safe? You’re Wrong;  3 fast, easy ways to find the perfect animated GIF;  Taplet for iOS pulls still images from videos;  How to manage your online reputation for free;  Spring cleaning: Back up your phone;  7 new hardware technologies you’ll see in Windows 10 PCs;  5 Reasons You Should Buy the Apple Watch;  Periscope for iOS update brings simplified blocking;  5 Reasons You Should Not Buy the Apple Watch;  iOS 8.3 now available, fixes a ton of bugs and issues;  Skype’s real-time translator now speaks Italian and Chinese;  Spring cleaning for your Gmail;  Your ultimate ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 cheat sheet.

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How to manage your online reputation for free – Just a few years ago, much of what we did was soon forgotten. But thanks largely to social media, now we do. Misspelled Tweets, Facebook rants after you’ve had a bad day, and unflattering photos posted by your friends have made it difficult to manage your online reputation, especially when it’s archived for posterity. And it’s not just about keeping a lid on the past or your online mistakes — it’s also about making yourself look confident, capable, and Internet-savvy. There are plenty of companies that will help you clean up, protect and build a professional online rep for a price, but you don’t need that. Here’s how to manage your online reputation all by yourself (for free).

Spring cleaning: Back up your phone – It’s not exactly cleaning per se, but in the spirit of organization, now is a good time to go through your devices and make sure you’re up to date on your backups. After all, what’s the point of diligently backing up your iPhone or Android device, only to find that you’re a few months (and several hundred photos and text messages) behind when you need to do an emergency restore?

7 new hardware technologies you’ll see in Windows 10 PCs – Some new features that make for easier hardware handling are already available, but not yet in Windows PCs, which still make up the vast majority of desktop and laptop machines. For example, Apple’s MacBook and Google’s Chromebook Pixel have set the stage for USB Type C ports and its associated reversible cables to be used in Windows PCs later this year. Meanwhile, the new Windows Hello feature—which will allow users to unlock a Windows 10 device by recognizing a face, iris or fingerprint—could bring 3D cameras and more sensors to PCs.

3 fast, easy ways to find the perfect animated GIF – You need an image that will simultaneously display your encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and wit. But if you’ve never tried diving into the world of the GIF, where do you start? Should you create your own with Photoshop or Gimp? Nah—all you need to do is bookmark some great online repositories and simple tools that make it painless to get your GIF on.

5 Reasons You Should Buy the Apple Watch – The Apple Watch goes on sale soon. Here are 5 reasons you want one.

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5 Reasons You Should Not Buy the Apple Watch – The Apple Watch goes on sale soon. Here are 5 reasons you shouldn’t buy one.

Periscope for iOS update brings simplified blocking – Periscope has pushed out a new update for its iOS app, and with it comes some new features, not the least of which is the ability to more easily block viewers while you’re streaming. As expected, the update also brings a few bug fixes in tow, such as that caching issue that was presenting the wrong user profile picture, as well as the problem that prevented some from watching broadcasts that were being heavily watched by others. We’ve the full change log after the jump!

Twitter is dropping the ‘Discover’ tab – Twitter’s Discover tab is gone. Today, the microblogging platform announces they’re retiring Discover, and will be transitioning Trends to the Search page. Trends is also getting a bit of attention in this process, signaling to us Twitter is keen to streamline our experience a bit. With Trends, Twitter will now provide a little context to hashtags you’re not immediately familiar with. The change is coming for both iOS and Android, and via an app update that’s already rolling out to all users.

iOS 8.3 now available, fixes a ton of bugs and issues – Having been in beta for what seems like forever, Apple has released iOS 8.3. In many regards, iOS 8.3 closely mirrors the OS X fixes behind the scenes, with WiFi and Bluetooth fixes inbound. In fact, this update is absolutely ripe with little tweaks and fixes — a pleasant side effect of Apple’s new iOS beta program, no doubt. Much of the ‘fixing’ seems to hit Safari, but Apple has also improved app launching, Messages, and Control Center. the full changelog is below.

Taplet for iOS pulls still images from new or existing videos – Take a video on your iPhone or iPad, and there’s bound to be at least one still image you’d like to extract. Someone made a funny face, or the bat-ball impact is just too cool to pass up. You could feed that video into some sort of expensive desktop software to extract stills, but that’s not fun. Enter Taplet, an app that aims to snatch still images from your videos for you, and let you use them as you please.

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OS X Update Brings New Photos App, Diverse Emoji to Mac – Say goodbye to iPhoto and Aperture, Mac users. Because Cupertino’s replacement—simply called Photos—has arrived. Apple on Wednesday released a free software update for users running OS X Yosemite (v10.10.3), which includes the new Photos app first released to developers back in February, and a number of other goodies. That includes more than 300 new, racially diverse Emoji characters that we first got a peek at earlier this year, along with the usual bug fixes.

Skype’s real-time translator now speaks Italian and Chinese – Microsoft has been trialling its Skype Translator software that automatically translates voice calls between people, and it’s getting a language update today. While the initial version only supported English and Spanish, today’s update brings Italian and Chinese (Mandarin). “As you can imagine, Mandarin is a very challenging language to learn, even for Skype Translator,” explains Microsoft’s Yasmin Khan. “With approximately 10,000 characters and multiple tones, this is one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to master, along with Arabic, Japanese, and Korean.”

Facebook launches standalone Messenger for web browsers – There’s now a web browser version of Facebook Messenger to go along with the standalone smartphone apps the company is making everyone use. No, Facebook the website isn’t taking away your ability to chat with friends. After the controversy that surrounded divorcing the two central features on mobile, Facebook is adamant that Messenger isn’t leaving Facebook.com anytime soon. Instead, Messenger for the web — which you’ll find at Messenger.com starting today — focuses solely on simple conversations and leaves the other parts of Facebook that can be distracting to the primary site.

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Spring cleaning for your Gmail – Spring cleaning month is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean you should stop optimizing the tech in your life. Gmail can be a source of stress if you don’t have a good system in place for responding to email, or the ability to easily locate contact information. Fortunately, these changes are just a few clicks away. Here’s seven tips to make Gmail work at its best for you.

Security:

Think Windows’s Built-In Antivirus Will Keep You Safe? You’re Wrong – It’s true that Windows 8 and 8.1 come with antivirus protection built in, but you can’t rely on it to protect you against malware attack. Results from independent labs and our own hands-on tests show that you really need a third-party antivirus utility.

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Diving into the Dark Web: Where does your stolen data go? – If your sensitive data is stolen online, where does it go — and who sees it? One security team found out.

Review: Anonabox or InvizBox, which Tor router better anonymizes online life? – These devices are, to varying degrees, effective ways to hide from unwanted attention of all sorts. That is, they’ll work short of a state actor looking to use a giant datacenter dedicated to performing all manner of de-anonymizing attacks by using the Tor takeover conspiracy model of the week, zero-day malware, or people’s own simple mistakes against them. But these routers all follow slightly different approaches. Anonabox is a stunningly hands-off product that has no user interface other than its lengthy Wi-Fi password; InvizBox provides hands-off privacy with the addition of an administrative interface to apply fixes and leverage moderately more complicated Tor capabilities; and PORTAL promises to provide everything—including pluggable protocols for Tor to help it get past the most persistent state-funded nastiness.

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Hands on (literally): the two Tor “travel router” contenders, Anonabox (left) and InvizBox (right), are ready to conceal your Internet wanderings. Sean Gallagher.

Pinterest, Yammer scramble to patch login thievery headaches – Pinterest has patched a vulnerability that meant its iPhone app leaked passwords to other surfers on the same network. An earlier version of the Pinterest iOS app fails to validate the server certificate, potentially allowing a suitably positioned attacker on the same network to steal login credentials related to the photo sharing-focused social networking website. The vulnerability might be exploited in an open Wi-Fi environment to run man-in-the-middle attacks using an invalid cert, according to bug finder Han Sahin of Dutch security firm Securify. In response, Pinterest acknowledged the problem and said that it had already developed a fix.

Company News:

YouTube Confirms Plans For An Ad-Free, Subscription-Based Service – Confirming reports from last fall, YouTube announced today its plans for an ad-free, subscription-based service by way of an email sent out to YouTube Partners. The email details the forthcoming option, which will offer consumers the choice to pay for an “ads-free” version of YouTube for a monthly fee. The additional monetization option requires partners to agree to updated terms on YouTube’s Creator Studio Dashboard, which notes that the changes will go into effect on June 15, 2015.

Report: Google ‘GMeet’ to Revamp the Teleconference – First discovered by Google+ user Florian Kiersch, the Web giant appears to be developing a new teleconferencing solution dubbed GMeet, or Google Meeting. Kiersch managed to nab some screenshots of the new service (pictured), which show that it will let you schedule a new meeting, join one that’s already in progress, and see a schedule of your meetings for that day. Google appears to be testing the service internally at the moment, as Kiersch said it’s only available to people who work at the company. Based on the leaked screenshots, it appears GMeet will be an Android app, but Kiersch said it will also be available on the Web through a Chrome extension.

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You can now buy a BMW from Amazon Japan – You can order just about anything from Amazon. Computers, lawnmowers, diapers, wine. On their Japanese site, though, you can even order yourself a brand new BMW. No, not a Matchbox car, an actual BMW that you can drive. By drive, I don’t meant using a remote control. While this particular BMW is, in fact, battery powered, it’s not an RC you can race around inside your house. It’s the BMW i3, the company’s popular compact EV.

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Google search might soon hook you up with local home services – Google seems to be trying to get more and more personal, suggesting things that go beyond our digital personas, perhaps not to everyone’s liking. The latest unconfirmed convenience that Google Search users might soon have at their fingertips would be connection to local home service providers, like plumbers, carpenters, and electricians. This would seem to be the next step to Google embracing almost every aspect of our lives, after it started helping us find the best nearby car insurance through Google Compare.

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FCC fines AT&T a record $25 million for customer data thefts – The Federal Communications Commission is handing AT&T a $25 million fine, the largest-ever amount for a privacy-related issue, for a series of data breaches that gave out personal information for nearly 280,000 customers and contributed to international trafficking of stolen mobile phones. The breaches occurred during 2013 and 2014 at AT&T call centers in Mexico, Colombia, and the Philippines, all serving customers in the US. AT&T has agreed to a settlement and to making several changes to its security practices.

Zynga CEO Mattrick leaves abruptly, replaced by founder Pincus – Zynga CEO Don Mattrick has abruptly left the company, to be replaced by his predecessor, company founder Mark Pincus, the company announced Wednesday. The company said in a statement ahead of its planned first-quarter conference call in May that Mattrick, who joined after leading the Xbox video game group at Microsoft, is leaving Zynga and its board of directors after less than two years at the helm.

Games and Entertainment:

Your ultimate ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 cheat sheet – With Season 5 of “Game of Thrones” starting Sunday, we’ve created a GIF-filled refresher course on who did what to whom, where and sometimes why. Plus, photo clues and a video recap.

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Watch the first trailer for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – Yesterday, Square Enix officially unveiled Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the latest entry in the long-running cyberpunk series. Today you can finally see what the game looks like in action thanks to the very first trailer. Mankind Divided takes place in 2029, two years after the events of Human Revolution, and once again stars augmented hero Adam Jensen; this time around he’s out hunting other mechanically augmented humans, who have been dubbed terrorists. Eidos Montreal will once again be developing the game, using the studio’s all-new Dawn Engine. No word yet on a release date, but the next chapter in the Deus Ex franchise will be coming to the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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New fan-made Star Trek TV show brings back original cast members – Currently, there are two fan-made Star Trek projects nearing release and both of them are vying for the chance to bring Star Trek back to TV. Star Trek: Axanar is a full length feature film about the four-year war with the Klingons that takes place in the Star Trek established canon’s past. Star Trek: Renegades is a fan-made television pilot that takes place 10 years after the events of Star Trek: Voyager.

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Xbox One Gets Over-The-Air TV Powers In The U.S. And Canada – Xbox One owners have a new way to get TV on their console: The game machine supports over-the-air TV now for those in the Xbox One Preview program, and in the coming months for everyone else, provided that you also pick up an $80 Hauppauge WinTV-955Q TV tuner and an HDTV antenna. Xbox is also working with Hauppauge to make it even cheaper to get on board, with a $60 tuner panned for availability sometime in the “next few month” and made available across the U.S. and Canada. Provided you get the right kind of HDTV antenna, and are within range of over-the-air broadcast stations, you’ll be able to use the tune and antenna hardware plugged into your Xbox One to get both OneGuide and MiniGuide overlays on the console showing you programming information.

“Game of Hyrule” video makes a gorgeous mix of fantasy – You’re probably tired, maybe even sick, of the numerous renditions of the now iconic Game of Thrones opening sequence. We’ve got Starcraft versions, or one that’s entirely done inside Minecraft’s blocky world. But from time to time, something comes up that’s so brilliant that it does give you goosebumps and shivers down your spine. Especially if it pays homage to a well-loved fantasy world. That’s exactly what video sketch group Megasteakman accomplished when it rendered Zelda’s world of Hyrule into a very short Game of Thrones tour.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

US cops have killed more people in the last month than British police have killed since 1900 – A total of 111 people were killed by police in the United States in March of 2015. Since 1900, in the entire United Kingdom, 52 people have been killed by police. Don’t bother adjusting for population differences, or poverty, or mental illness, or anything else. The sheer fact that American police kill TWICE as many people per month as police have killed in the modern history of the United Kingdom is sick, preposterous, and alarming.

Super-light drone mimics a butterfly – Automation and robotics company Festo has designed a super-light drone aircraft that looks and moves like a butterfly, which is rather hypnotic to watch all by itself, but it gets better. You can unleash multiple butterfly drones and they flutter around as an interconnected group. The artificial insects (called eMotionButterflies) rely on a number of technologies to get airborne and stay there. First, there are the light plastic wings. Each one is controlled independently by a tiny servo. This allows the robot to maneuver in the air without any complicated fins of spinning blades. It’s not as precise as a quadrocopter, but it’s certainly more elegant. The hardware controlling the butterfly is also extremely compact.

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AIG wins approval to fly drones to help process claims – The FAA gives AIG approval to use unmanned aerial vehicles to examine disaster sites, assess risk and get claims rolling.

Drones to the rescue: How one South African project is using big data to outfox rhino poachers – A project to protect South African rhinos is using crowdfunding to help fund the purchase of drones used to defeat poachers.

U.S. Teens’ Social Media Activity Is Diversifying, Says Pew – Anyone in tech can tell you that Actual Teens are hallowed ground. Where teens’ tastes wander, the industry froths itself into a frenzy attempting to follow. For teens are a bellwether of dollar valuations to come. So what are American Teens keen on right now? A new report by the Pew Research Center delves into the tech that matters to the kids that matter.

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Rand Paul sells “NSA spy cam blocker” as presidential bid fundraiser – Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced his intent to run for United States president in 2016 on Tuesday, although the video of the announcement is currently offline due to a copyright claim filed on behalf of the song it used. In the meantime, supporters can access an online store full of Rand-branded merch. There, next to political-support knickknacks like yard signs and bumper stickers, shoppers can find a heretofore uncommon accessory in the political-fundraiser category: a “webcam blocker.” Or, more specifically, an “NSA spy cam blocker,” which retails for $15 and comes with a giant “RAND” logo.

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Apple would rather you didn’t queue at its stores for its new products – It’s a familiar sight: Apple unveils a new product, and excited fans flock to its retail stores ahead of launch day, eager to be among the first people to get their hands on the new device. Indeed, it’s a sight that many other companies look upon with jealous eyes, wishing their customers were similarly keen to buy their products – but it seems that Apple isn’t quite as happy about it as one might imagine. In fact, Apple’s head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, would much rather customers place orders for its new devices through the company’s website, rather than turning up at its stores.

NASA anticipates finding evidence of alien life in 10 to 20 years – If you’re hoping humans will discover other living beings in the universe during your lifetime, you might be in luck. Speaking yesterday at a panel in DC, NASA researchers touched on the topic of alien life and finding evidence of such, and what they had to say was largely inspiring: it’ll eventually happen, and the first stages of that likely within the span of the next 20 years. The prospect is exciting, not the least of which is due to the leaps in space travel humans are likely to make in that same time span.

Something to think about:

“The fact that our government collects so much information about us — where we live, our economic status, so many unbelievable little details about our lives — but it doesn’t track its own behaviour when it kills, either justifiably or otherwise, is incomprehensible.”

–       D. Brian Burghart

Today’s Free Downloads:

New Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit version is out – Did you know that the majority of new malware is delivered via the web through a process known as a drive-by download attack?

The scenario is quite simple: you browse to a website and malicious code is downloaded to your computer automatically without your knowledge or approval.

Contrary to some beliefs, you do not need to browse to shady websites for this to happen. In fact, all websites are a potential source of infection either because they can get compromised or because they host a malicious advertisement.

Anti-Exploit protection is about being proactive and not giving the bad guys a single chance to compromise your system. Some pieces of malware can be cleaned up more or less easily but other types like ransomware can’t.

Anti-Exploit is the perfect complement to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for a defense in depth in a world where cyber criminals are constantly pushing the boundaries and finding new ways to compromise your machines.

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit comes in two flavours: The free or the premium version and both can be downloaded here.

Existing users can install the new version on top of the previous one or wait for a program update. More details and change log can be found in our forums here.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

If you called anyone overseas from 1992-2013, the DEA probably knew about it – The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), under approval from the top echelons of the Department of Justice, ran a secret, extensive phone metadata bulk collection program for over two decades, amassing billions of records, according to a new report published Tuesday in USA Today.

This database had previously been revealed to a lesser extent earlier this year, but neither its operational details nor its scope had been revealed until now.

For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, current and former officials involved with the operation said. The targeted countries changed over time but included Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.

Federal investigators used the call records to track drug cartels’ distribution networks in the USA, allowing agents to detect previously unknown trafficking rings and money handlers. They also used the records to help rule out foreign ties to the bombing in 1995 of a federal building in Oklahoma City and to identify U.S. suspects in a wide range of other investigations.

As Ars reported in January 2015, the DEA had previously revealed some information about this database in a three-page partially-redacted affidavit that the database was authorized under a particular federal drug trafficking statute. The law allows the government to use “administrative subpoenas” to obtain business records and other “tangible things.”

So, the DEA simply “began ordering telephone companies to turn over lists of all phone calls from the USA to countries where the government determined drug traffickers operated, current and former officials said.”

Phone Surveillance Revelation Should Prompt Reassessment Of NSA Spying – Does evidence of a decades-old surveillance program throw out the case many public officials have made for the modern surveillance state?

Since Edward Snowden first leaked documents about secret National Security Agency (NSA) programs, government officials have defended them in the name of September 11 and national security. Again and again, we heard that these programs were built in the wake of that tragic day to “connect the dots” so no event like that would ever occur again. They addressed issues of national security, not day-to-day policing.

But a new report from USA TODAY suggests that the precursor of this program was implemented almost a decade earlier — fighting drug cartels, not terrorism.

The report says the United States began keeping secret records of billions of Americans’ calls to international numbers in 1992. The program, which the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration led, spanned more than two decades and affected calls to as many as 116 countries, even if the callers were not suspects in crimes.

Google ordered by German authority to change privacy practices – A German data protection authority has ordered Google to change how it handles users’ private data in the country by the end of the year.

The administrative order was issued on Wednesday by the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Johannes Caspar, in order to force Google to comply with German data protection law and give users more control over their data.

Google started combining existing policies for various services when it changed its privacy policy in 2012, despite the concerns of European Union data protection authorities. At least six authorities then started formal investigations into the new policy; Hamburg was one of those six.

The Hamburg data protection commissioner originally issued its order against Google in September last year, but Google decided to oppose it. Its objection was overruled by the authority.

The company is now obliged to make the necessary changes in order to process data of German users on a valid legal basis, Caspar said.

US drug cops taken to court to ensure all dragnet snooping records are destroyed – Campaign group Human Rights Watch is suing Uncle Sam’s anti-drug squads – the US Drug Enforcement Administration and others – after it emerged the g-men were secretly monitoring Americans’ international phone calls.

The activists claim the collection of telephone conversation records is unconstitutional, and causes “irreparable harm” to people. Human Rights Watch is being represented by the EFF, which has previously taken the US government to task over blanket surveillance operations. Together they filed a lawsuit in California on Tuesday against the DEA, the FBI, the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Homeland Security, and the United States of America for good measure.

Human Rights Watch’s general counsel Dinah PoKempner said her organization “works with people who are sometimes in life or death situations, where speaking out can make them a target,” adding: “Whom we communicate with and when is often extraordinarily sensitive – and it’s information that we wouldn’t turn over to the government lightly.”

From the early 1990s, the DEA kept logs on virtually all telephone calls from the US to as many as 116 countries. The agency wanted to track the trafficking of illegal substances, and wound up gathering masses of information on innocent citizens – which is upsetting privacy campaigners.

FBI would rather prosecutors drop cases than disclose stingray details – Not only is the FBI actively attempting to stop the public from knowing about stingrays, it has also forced local law enforcement agencies to stay quiet even in court and during public hearings, too.

An FBI agreement, published for the first time in unredacted form on Tuesday, clearly demonstrates the full extent of the agency’s attempt to quash public disclosure of information about stingrays. The most egregious example of this is language showing that the FBI would rather have a criminal case be dropped to protect secrecy surrounding the stingray.

Relatively little is known about how, exactly, stingrays, known more generically as cell-site simulators, are used by law enforcement agencies nationwide, although new documents have recently been released showing how they have been purchased and used in some limited instances. Worse still, cops have lied to courts about their use. Not only can stingrays be used to determine location by spoofing a cell tower, they can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. Typically, police deploy them without first obtaining a search warrant.

The US Gov Can Download the Entire Contents of Your Computer at Border Crossings – Hundreds of thousands of travelers cross US borders every day. And none of them—save the precious few with diplomatic immunity—have any right to privacy, according to Department of Homeland Security documents recently obtained by MuckRock.

The US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Privacy Impact Assessment for the Border Searches of Electronic Devices outlines the finer points of border officials’ authority to search the electronic devices of citizens and non-citizens alike crossing the US border. What becomes clear is that this authority has been broadly interpreted to mean that any device brought into or out of the country is subject to the highest level of scrutiny, even when there is no explicit probable cause.

Based upon little more than the opinion of a single US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer, any device can be searched and its contents read. With approval from a supervisor, the device can be seized, its contents copied in full, or both.

Canada: A welcome warning on privacy rights: Editorial – In the sci-fi thriller Minority Report, advertisers target consumers by scanning their irises as they walk by. The scans are connected to data files of private information so complete that the advertiser can actually address passing pedestrians by name.

We’re not there yet. But Bell Canada’s so-called “Relevant Advertising Program” certainly gives cause for concern. Luckily, it alarmed the privacy commissioner of Canada as well, after he received an unprecedented 170 complaints about the program.

And this week Daniel Therrien issued a welcome report slamming the telecommunications giant for not seeking consent from each of its customers to create personal files that Bell used to help advertisers target them. He also threatened to take Bell to Federal Court if it did not comply with his recommendation.

In all, it was a much-needed shot across the bow of Bell and other companies that might infringe on customers’ privacy rights.

And it worked. After fighting the privacy commissioner for a year on the issue, Bell promised to obtain consent. It claimed it was doing so because it is “dedicated to protecting customer privacy.”

In fact, Bell’s targeted advertising program was downright creepy in how deeply it invaded customer privacy to sell information to third-party advertisers.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 8, 2015

Many connected-home devices lack robust security features;  Turn old movies and video games into cash;  The 13 Best Free Smartphones You Can Buy;  Streamline keyboard shortcuts with Sticky Keys;  How to scan and archive your old printed photos;  How tough is your tech?  Five photo editors that won’t break your budget;  How to Make Typing On Your iPhone Way Easier;  The rise of sextortion;  Google ad reseller Engage Lab spreads large malvertising campaign;  Netflix starts recommending specific smart TV sets;  Verizon invests $100 million in struggling Detroit;  A new Deus Ex is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies Last Week;  Hands-On With The New Roku 3;  You’re using your fridge wrong (pictures);  Edward Snowden just helped launch a major US presidential campaign.

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Many connected-home devices lack robust security features, security firm claims – According to a report released this morning by security provider Veracode, many of the Internet of Things devices that consumers are buying for their increasingly connected homes are vulnerable to hacker exploits. While Veracode looked at different devices and vulnerabilities, its overall findings mirror those by Synack, which we reported on last month. According to the Veracode report, for example, a vulnerability in the Ubi voice-controlled Internet appliance could enable criminals to monitor the ambient noise or light in a room to determine whether someone is home or away. Similarly, a weakness in the Chamberlain MyQ Garage garage door opener could alert thieves to a door’s opening and closing, again giving a clue to good times to break in.

Spring cleaning: Turn old movies and video games into cash – Over the years it’s easy to accumulate a stack of video games and movies. Eventually, games you used to love are thrown to the side after you beat the big boss for the millionth time. And movies lose their luster once you’ve memorized the entire flick, line-by-line. While DVDs make for fun drink coasters and game cases make for good door stops, there’s a better use for all involved. Take your movies and games and turn them into money.

The 13 Best Free Smartphones You Can Buy – Walk into any AT&T or Verizon store, and you’ll see a shelf full of $0 phones, complete with cheap knock-offs, devices that can’t connect to the Internet, and old handsets from 2012. Make no mistake: when it comes to free phones, you usually get what you pay for. Here and there, however, you can find a great phone for $0 down.

How to scan and archive your old printed photos – Whether you’re looking to reduce clutter or share fond memories online, here are four methods for digitizing your print photo collection.

Streamline keyboard shortcuts even more with Sticky Keys – I love keyboard shortcuts. They are incredibly useful, but sometimes they can be a little impractical. Especially when a key combo is particularly far apart on the keyboard (Alt + PrtScr I’m looking at you). That’s why it’s handy to know about a Windows feature called Sticky Keys that lets you activate important keys including Alt, Ctrl, Shift, and the Windows logo key with a single press. It’s like Caps Lock for cut and paste. We’ve talked about Sticky Keys before, but here’s a little more detailed look at this handy feature.

How tough is your tech? – Water-resistant doesn’t mean waterproof. Here’s how to find out just how rugged your smartphones, tablets, activity trackers and smartwatches really are.

‘Ride’ new carpooling app hits iTunes today – Carpools aren’t just for soccer moms anymore. The latest ridesharing service, Ride allows those with a long commute, more than 30 minutes, to participate in efficiently arranged van pools. It has an app and mobile interface, like Uber, but its similarities end there. Ride drivers are all volunteers instead of paid contractors. The service hope to save you time and money. Instead of paying for tolls, parking, and wear and tear on your vehicle, Ride supplies a regularly maintained van to transport people who live or work in the same area.

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The versatile Flir FX home security camera delivers a slick forensic feature – One of the most common problems with security cameras is sorting through all the video they capture in order to find the information that’s most important. Flir’s solution, dubbed RapidRecap, enables you to watch an entire day’s worth of video in just a few minutes. It combines dozens of time-stamped motion events into a single clip. A box overlaid on each person displays the exact time their movement was captured. This is much easier to watch than to explain; fortunately, Flir has embedded a host of sample videos on this page of its website.

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Instagram adds ‘Fade’ and ‘Color’ tools – There’s no shortage of options when it comes to editing photos on your phone these days. There are apps with curated styles (like VSCO Cam), slick and simple ones (Darkroom), and feature-rich options (Enlight). Even tried-and-true desktop photo editing applications like Photoshop and Lightroom have mobile apps. Instagram, which accelerated the popularity of mobile photography a few years ago, has found itself playing a bit of catch-up, and in December it offered its first new filters in two years. Today, the app adds two new editing tools: “Fade” and “Color.”

Five versatile photo editors that won’t break your budget – When you need to post images, you’ll probably want to edit them — and you may not want to shell out the coin for the likes of Photoshop. But what photo editing software can you add to your toolbox without have to spend much (or any) of your budget? Luckily, there are plenty of options. Here are my five favorite affordable photo editors.

Everything You Need to Know About Snapchat’s New Emoji Feature – The new feature replaces the public ‘Best Friends’ list, which was ditched last year after privacy concerns. Previously, anyone in a user’s contact list could see who they sent the most snaps to. But Friends Emojis are totally private and only the user can see them. To break it down, there are six possible emojis that will appear next to the six people you snap with the most, including a gold heart next to your absolute BF. You’ll see a smirk if you are their BF but they are not yours. Here are others explained:

Twitter ‘Quote Tweet’ Update Gives You More to Work With – Good news, Twitter users. The micro-blogging service is revamping its quote tweet function. Instead of quoting tweets with straight text or a direct link, Twitter will now embed the actual tweet inside yours and let you add an extra comment. On the Web, all you have to do is click the retweet button as you normally would, and you’ll see an option to “Add a comment” where you can include your thoughts before posting. On iOS, click the retweet button, select “Quote Tweet, add your comment, and press the Retweet button.

How to Make Typing On Your iPhone Way Easier – While iOS 8 packs a pretty good predictive text function that allows you to select from oft-used words via a bar over the keyboard, there are some great third party apps that can help facilitate texting and typing away on your iPhone.

Microsoft’s ‘Redstone': An update to Windows 10 due in 2016 – There’s a new Windows codename on the roadmap: “Redstone.” Brad Sams at Neowin unearthed the existence of the Redstone codename on April 7, calling it the “next Windows update coming in 2016.” According to my sources, he’s right. Here’s how to think about Redstone, based on what I’m hearing.

Security:

Google ad reseller Engage Lab spreads large malvertising campaign: Report – Cybersecurity firm Fox IT has observed a virulent malvertising campaign stemming from Google ad reseller Engagelab.com and all advertisement services resold through its site. The compromised website is redirecting all traffic to an outside domain that ultimately redirects to a Nuclear Exploit Kit targeting vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash, Oracle Java and Microsoft Silverlight software. The security firm observed the first redirect on Tuesday and subsequently detected a significant amount of infections and infection attempts from the exploit kit.

The rise of sextortion: Nude selfies are fun until someone gets blackmailed – You don’t have to be a celebrity to get nailed by a nude photo. According to a report by Trend Micro, sextortion—the use of compromising photos or videos to extract money from victims—is on the rise. According to the Trend Micro report, crime rings are setting up fake Facebook accounts and posing as flirtatious, available women. They invite victims to join a Skype video-chat for cybersex and record the session without the victim’s knowledge. The video is then used to blackmail the victim into paying a ransom—typically about $1,000—or risk having the explicit content made public on YouTube.

Can’t patch this: Mozilla pulls Firefox encryption feature after just a week – Mozilla has pulled Firefox 37’s opportunistic encryption feature after less than a week when it learned that tech designed to enhance security actually broke SSL certificate validation. A simple patch wouldn’t do the trick, so Mozilla opted to release an update, Firefox 37.0.1, that removed opportunistic encryption. Going into reverse ferret mode and stripping out technology that evidently wasn’t ready for prime time is a little embarrassing for Mozilla even though this is the responsible action to take in the circumstances. Mozilla correctly labels Firefox 37.0.1 as a critical update.

HP tells cybersecurity customers to focus on people and processes – To protect themselves against cyberattacks, organizations should focus more on training their employees and improving their internal processes instead of buying new technology, according to one tech vendor. Yet, businesses and government agencies often focus on the next “silver bullet” product, unaware that most cybersecurity problems stem from flawed procedures and human error, said Art Gilliland, senior vice president and general manager for Hewlett-Packard’s software enterprise security products. “This is hard for a product guy to say out loud to an audience, but invest in your people and process,” Gilliland said at HP’s Software Government Summit in Washington, D.C. “The first thing that always gets negotiated out of every [security software] contract is the training and the services.”

Company News:

Netflix starts recommending specific smart TV sets – If you’re in the market for a new smart TV, Netflix would like to give you some buying advice. The company has just launched a “Netflix Recommended TV” program, throwing its weight behind a handful of televisions that work well with Netflix’s streaming video service. The first TVs in the program areLG’s 4K UHD TVs with webOS 2.0, Sony’s Android TVs, and Roku TVs from HiSense, TCL, and Insignia.

Microsoft reveals plan to hire autistic employees – Microsoft has revealed a pilot program for hiring people with autism, with information about it having been released late last week in honor of World Autism Awareness Day. The program is still in its early days at this point, but is being done in conjunction with Specialisterne, and will result in autistic individuals being offered full-time employment in various positions at the company’s Redmond, Washington campus.

Bitcoin Foundation hit hard by big bitcoin losses – The Bitcoin Foundation, formed in 2012 to promote the virtual currency, has rejected claims by a board member that it’s bankrupt but has acknowledged significant financial problems—ironically as a result of a big drop in the value of its bitcoin holdings. On Tuesday its board of directors rejected claims made a day earlier by board member Olivier Janssens that it was “effectively bankrupt,” but said the bitcoin roller coaster has forced it to drastically cut back its operations.

Verizon invests $100 million in struggling Detroit – Detroit is in bad shape. After the most recent economic issues our country experienced, the bottom fell out of the Motor City; businesses left, and citizens followed. The city we knew is now a shell of itself, trying to rebuild, but at least one company is unafraid of the challenge. Today, Verizon is announcing they’re investing $100 million in Detroit, which will serve to enhance the city’s wireless experience throughout the Metro area. With the placement of 150 ‘small cells’ in Detroit, Verizon is future-proofing a potentially booming area.

Uber asks US court to toss out alleged rape case from India – The car-hailing service says a US-based company cannot be sued in a “dispute involving an alleged wrong committed by one Indian citizen against another Indian citizen, in India.”

Global semiconductor market hit $340 billion in 2014: Gartner – Worldwide semiconductor market revenue hit $340.3 billion in 2014, increasing by 7.9 percent over the previous year’s tally of $315.4 billion, according to Gartner. The information technology research firm’s latest report shows that the world’s top 25 semiconductor vendors’ combined revenue increase outstripped the global total, seeing an 11.7 percent boost in revenue growth during the year. The top 25 vendors in the industry, including Intel, Samsung, and Qualcomm, made up 72.4 percent of the total market revenue — an increase on the 69.9 percent of the market for which they accounted in 2013.

Games and Entertainment:

This Character’s Costume Was Too Sexy for ‘Final Fantasy’ – Usually, it’s female role-playing game characters who wear the impractical armor. They’ll prance around in metal bikinis, baring midriff and cleavage as they swing a battle axe. Male heroes, meanwhile, wear full plate armor, perhaps showing a little skin around the eyes through the slit in their helmets. If you want an idea of how widespread the practice is, just check out the before and after images on the Repair Her Armor Tumblr, which is dedicated to fixing sexy outfits for video game and comic book characters (Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain’s character The Quiet is a great example).

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Image: Square Enix

A new Deus Ex is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC – Square Enix has just revealed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the first major release in the cyberpunk action series since 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The news comes via a cover reveal for the latest issue of Game Informer. The game is set two years after Human Revolution, and will once again star Adam Jensen as the leading character. According to Game Informer, Mankind Divided will feature not only new gameplay twists including new augmentations to play around with, but also a more open-ended structure to give you more freedom to solve challenges. Aside from that, little has been announced so far. The game is coming to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, though no release date has been announced.

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‘Dead or Alive 5′ Warned Players Not to Make Nude Mods, So They Made Nude Mods – Clearly, modders were not dissuaded by Koei Tecmo producer Yosuke Hayashi, who told MCV in an interview: “We would like to ask PC users to play our game in good moral and manner. Otherwise, we won’t be able to release a title for PC again.” Are we now to assume that Koei Tecmo will not release another game on PC ever again? I doubt it, or at least it won’t be because of the nude mods. Also, let this GIF serve as a reminder that the difference between nudity and no nudity seems like splitting hairs considering the fact that what you see here is Koei Tecmo-approved content that is already in the game:

Credit: Steam user [KOR] Hong-Gil-Dong

Hands-On With The New Roku 3 – Today we got our first chance to sit down with the new Roku 3 to put it through its paces. As you can see in the video, the new hardware driving the box has gotten a noticeable bump in performance. It’s a vastly superior experience if you’re moving up from an older Roku or a competitor whose hardware hasn’t gotten an upgrade in a few years (looking at you, Apple TV).

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The Witcher 3 has 2 DLC packs that add 30 hours of gameplay – The quality of the DLC packs that appear for games varies wildly, from the genuinely worthwhile right down to “this should have shipped with the original game” features. The DLC packs just announced for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt definitely fall into the former category, in fact, they are promising to add a whole new game’s worth of content. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is set for release on May 19 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and developer CD Projekt Red is now finishing up work on the main game and turning its attention to expansion packs. Two such packs are planned: Hearts of Stone arriving October 2015, and Blood and Wine scheduled to appear at some point in the first quarter of 2016. These are on top of the 16 free DLC extras every player will receive after the game launches.

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The 10 Most-Pirated Movies Last Week – Before I discuss the week’s most-pirated movies, however, allow me to state that PCMag doesn’t condone piracy in any way, shape, or form. Our mission is a simple and pure one—to inform you about what’s happening in the online digital media world. Besides, tracking stolen movies is a way to gauge a movie’s popularity beyond ticket sales. Now that the disclaimer’s out of the way, let’s discuss pirated movies!

Off Topic (Sort of):

NASA, IBM Team For Worldwide Space App Hackathon – What happens when NASA gets together with IBM’s Bluemix cloud services and sponsors a worldwide hackathon? They hope to challenge participants to build apps that help solve issues around space exploration and earthly problems too. The ambitious event, called The Space App Challenge, is taking place this weekend simultaneously in 162 countries involving 136 cities and 10,000 participants, who will be attacking a range of problems in categories such as ‘Print Your Own Space Food’, ‘Robots, Robots, Robots’ and ‘Clean Water Mapping.’ Main themes include Outer Space, Earth, Humans and Robotics and participants could include developers, scientists, students, entrepreneurs and educators.

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This is how you would sound if email interactions were acted out in real life – Ever wonder what it would be like if you experienced “Email in Real Life”? A comedy duo has done just this in their latest video, reenacting common email faux pas in real life.

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Whistleblowers claim Russia has a propaganda “troll house” – What’s more frightening and more destructive than an Internet troll? Why, a house full of them! That is exactly what Russia alleged has and it is a literal one. Two former employees of this “troll house” have come out to reveal some rather worrying details about this secret business that might actually be booming in the dark. Their testimonies add to the growing body of testimonies and speculation regarding Russia’s more than active yet completely under the radar activities to spread its ideology and world views, especially against its enemies and the West.

Pointing up  What a bullshit article – the entire World – individuals, companies, governments – employ trolls to influence public opinion. From Obama on down, all politicians use trolls to undercut negative opinion/fact. I have to wonder if this “journalist” has every bothered to follow a comment thread in a newspaper.

In this piece, mainstream media (lying bastards that they are), seem intent on shifting the focus away from the criminal behaviour of Obama and friends, and painting any target of opportunity as a data threat. Why,the Russians might even break into your private steamy video stream – just for a few laughs, you understand. Yeah, Russian trolls should be on your radar as a threat to your human dignity. Not!

You’re using your fridge wrong (pictures) – How much thought do you put into your refrigerator? If your food isn’t keeping as long as you’d like, perhaps not enough. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to start using your fridge more intelligently, and the reward for doing so is fresher, better-tasting food. Click through for some handy tips to get you started.

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Australia: Don’t panic: A hitchhiker’s guide to iiNet-Dallas Buyers Club ruling – It will likely be a while yet before Australians who allegedly downloaded Dallas Buyers Club over peer-to-peer services will get a letter in the mail, and even longer before any potential damages will be paid.

Why Do We Need Intel’s Compute Stick? – What do you do with a PC on a stick? I don’t know, but I think we’re about to find out really soon. Intel’s Compute Stick goes on pre-order today, delivering a full Windows 8.1-compatible PC on an HDMI stick for $150. It has an Intel processor, 32GB of storage, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a USB port, and it can just plug into any screen and turn it into a PC. Cool, right? It’s part of a new revolution in computing, which is turning every screen into a computer. We’re just not sure why.

Something to think about:

“The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it’s just sort of a tired feeling.”

–     Paula Poundstone

Today’s Free Downloads:

Chromium 44.0.2360.0 – Chromium is the open source web browser project from which Google Chrome draws its source code. It was designed in order to provide for all users a safer, faster, and more stable way to experience the web.

Chromium is really a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application. The project has avoided putting unnecessary things into the User Interface in an attempt to make a more intuitive, friendly user experience.

The tab is the equivalent of a desktop application’s title bar; the frame containing the tabs is a convenient mechanism for managing groups of those applications. In future, there may be other tab types that do not host the normal browser toolbar.

Chromium is a very fast and effective browser that uses search as it’s primary form of navigation. This simplifies the way you access personal content and the web.It also offers enhanced functionality through HTML 5, offline modes, background processing, notifications, and more.

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PrivaZer – When you use your PC (at home or working at your office), go on the Internet, watch a video, download, copy/remove files on your PC, install/uninstall or use software, etc., you always leave sensitive traces which:

make your PC slower and cluttered

reduces free space available 

puts you at risk for a bad consequence: what you have done could be easily recovered by analyzing your PC with an expert recovery software or with more advanced techniques.

We decided to develop a new type of cleaning tool to give you the peace of mind that once your data is gone, it is gone for good.

PrivaZer allows you to:

See exactly what can still be recovered of your past activities on your PC at home or at work

Clean in-depth unwanted traces of what you’ve done watched, downloaded, deleted, etc. and prevent recovery

Master your security & freedom. Free up disk space. Keep your PC fit and secure!!!

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Phone Surveillance Revelation Should Prompt Reassessment Of NSA Spying – Does evidence of a decades-old surveillance program throw out the case many public officials have made for the modern surveillance state?

Since Edward Snowden first leaked documents about secret National Security Agency (NSA) programs, government officials have defended them in the name of September 11 and national security. Again and again, we heard that these programs were built in the wake of that tragic day to “connect the dots” so no event like that would ever occur again. They addressed issues of  national security, not day-to-day policing.

But a new report from USA TODAY suggests that the precursor of this program was implemented almost a decade earlier — fighting drug cartels, not terrorism.

The report says the United States began keeping secret records of billions of Americans’ calls to international numbers in 1992. The program, which the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration led, spanned more than two decades and affected calls to as many as 116 countries, even if the callers were not suspects in crimes.

Edward Snowden just helped launch a major US presidential campaign – Rand Paul announced his candidacy for president today, and with him — at least in spirit — was a man many people in Paul’s party consider a traitor: Edward Snowden. Paul and others in Congress with similar libertarian sympathies have been railing against the NSA for a while, but it’s pretty remarkable to see a presidential campaign from a major candidate begin with a nod to the information that Snowden provided to the public about the US government’s massive surveillance programs.

Echoing comments he made at CPAC 2015, Paul said today during his announcement that “phone records of law abiding citizens are none of [the government’s] damn business.” He also pledged that “as president, on day one, I will immediately end this unconstitutional surveillance.”

France accused of tabling ‘Patriot Act’ style surveillance law – A bill (“Projet de Loi Relatif au Renseignement”) – which was drawn up before the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Casher supermarket attacks – is due to go before the National Assembly next week under an accelerated legislative procedure that dispenses with the need for a second reading.

However, international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) argues that the measures are packed full of problematic clauses.

Most notably, there is a lack of meaningful judicial oversight; requirements for private service providers to monitor and analyze user data (and report suspicious patterns); prolonged retention periods for some captured data; and little public transparency.

The charity lambastes the bill as a French version of the much criticised US Patriot Act.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 7, 2015

Snowden Explains How the NSA Can See Your Naked Pics;  Intel Core i3 vs. Core i5 vs. Core i7 – What do you get by spending more?  How to install two or more operating systems on one PC;  Microsoft brings back the “Work & Play” bundle;  Don’t Ignore Meerkat and Periscope;  Intel Compute Stick now available for pre-order; starts at $110;  Hands on with the Surface 3: it’s not an iPad killer;  Patch for Windows 7 and 8 will notify users to upgrade to Windows 10;  Essential PC, smartphone and tablet repair tools;  You can now get an Xbox One for $225 in the US;  9 Tips for Faster Wi-Fi Streaming;  Linux Australia breached, personal details leaked;  Your Porn Is Watching You;  Star Wars Digital HD Collection coming April 10;  7 Hidden Roku Tricks for Streaming Success;  April Xbox One update now available for all;  Why John Oliver Can’t Find Americans Who Know Edward Snowden’s Name.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The NSA may not be listening to your private phone calls, but it has been watching your private parts – Tapping into laptop webcams shows the biggest and most blatant lack of respect for people’s privacy by Western governments — probably in living memory.

Pointing up    Blatant voyeurism and security theater wrapped up into a neat package designed to convince you that you’re safe. Of course, if you’re doing nothing wrong etc., etc.

Still not convinced that you need to actively engage against this rampant American and British led disregard for human dignity?

Watch: Snowden Explains How the NSA Can See Your Naked Pics – How do you get Americans to care about government surveillance? Dick pics, according to John Oliver.

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Don’t Ignore Meerkat and Periscope – Every decade or so, an application comes to market that has a real impact on the tech scene, producing a domino effect for how products are designed and ultimately used. The first app to do this was VisiCalc, which convinced IBM to enter the PC market and helped birth the PC revolution. Desktop publishing was similarly influential, taking laser printers, CD-ROM drives, and WYSIWYG, graphically oriented computing mainstream. Two new applications, Meerkat and Periscope, are poised to perhaps be the next big thing in the digital world. Both apps are designed to deliver real-time video streaming through Twitter, and even though both have only been out a short time, I already see how they could be disruptive apps that shape the way information is disseminated and how next-generation smartphones are designed and used.

Intel Core i3 vs. Core i5 vs. Core i7 – What do you get by spending more? – When building a new computer, price is often the factor that dictates which components you buy. Setting a budget is usually the easy part while picking the right hardware to meet that cap is the real challenge, especially with gaming systems as both the CPU and GPU weigh heavily on the overall expense. Those building an Intel machine these days have loads of options, with desktop CPU prices ranging from as little as $60 to well over $600. The Core i3 is intended as an entry-level option, the Core i5 is geared for mainstream usage, and the mighty Core i7 is meant for high-end systems and enthusiasts.

How to install two or more operating systems on one PC – Of course, all of the operating systems must be compatible with your hardware. Assuming your PC is less than five years old, it should be able to take Windows 7 and 8, along with almost any type of Linux. Just remember that you’ll need paid-for licenses for each version of Windows you install (not an issue with free Linux).  I’ll walk you through installing Windows 8 onto a Windows 7 PC. With minor differences, this should work with other operating systems, as well.

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What you need to know about Google Drive’s ‘Photos’ backup – Not long ago, Google blogged that Drive would now serve as an automatic backup point for your photos. While the announcement was welcome, the service wasn’t quite ready for primetime, leaving the new ‘Google Photos’ tab in Drive dormant. Users are starting to see auto backup pop up for both Android and iOS, but there are some interesting wrinkles some may not have considered. Rather than let you figure it out on your own (and maybe delete pics accidentally), we’ll go over what’s what with Drive’s automatic backup.

9 Tips for Faster Wi-Fi Streaming – The cable plan you signed up for promised up to 300Mbps of blistering Internet speed, but reality has proven to be somewhat different. You’re barely topping 25Mbps, Netflix doesn’t work upstairs and by 7 p.m., no one seems to be able to stream anything at all. What actions can you take to increase your Wi-Fi performance and get your streaming speed back up to par?

Microsoft brings back the “Work & Play” bundle for a limited time in the U.S. – Microsoft now offers an entertainment, gaming and productivity services bundle in the U.S. for users that want to combine multiple subscriptions into one and save money in the process

Dallas Buyers Club wins access to pirates’ information in iiNet case – The Federal Court of Australia has handed down its judgement in a landmark piracy case between the makers of Oscar-winning film “Dallas Buyers Club” and one of Australia’s largest service providers, iiNet.

Intel Compute Stick now available for pre-order; starts at $110 – If you’re interested in carrying your PC with you everywhere you go, and a smartphone just doesn’t suffice, then Intel’s Compute stick might be the device for you. Not much bigger than a regular USB stick, the device offers a Bay Trail Atom processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage as well as HDMI out, a USB 2.0 port, a microSD card reader, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a micro-USB port which powers the device. The Intel Compute stick is now available for pre-order on Newegg, Amazon and a few other retailers going for $149.99 and shipping with Windows 8.1 with Bing. However, if that’s not your cup of tea there’s also a Linux version with only 1GB RAM and 8GB storage going for $110.

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Patch for Windows 7 and 8 will notify users to upgrade to Windows 10 – A recent “recommended” patch showed up in Windows Update, linked to KB3035583, which seemingly prepares machines for the new OS. The knowledge base article describes the patch as enabling additional capabilities for Windows Update notifications in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 SP1. But looking at the files the patch installs in System 32, we can see that at least one of the executables mentions downloading Windows 10. Not only that, but the patch itself seems to pave the way for Microsoft to display ads and notifications to users, letting them know when the new OS becomes available.

The 10 Very Best Digital Cameras We’ve Tested – From simple compact models up to full-featured digital SLRs, here’s a look at the top cameras we’ve tested recently.

Hands on with the Surface 3: it’s not an iPad killer – As revealed last week Surface 3 is not a successor to Surface 2. It doesn’t have an ARM processor, it doesn’t run Windows RT, and it doesn’t have limited software compatibility. Instead, it uses a Cherry Trail Atom processor, it runs the full version of Windows 8.1, and it will run any x86 software that any other PC will run. The name is something of a misnomer, in fact: this isn’t “Surface 3″ so much as it’s “Surface Pro 3 Lite.” It’s every bit the equivalent of the 12.5 inch Haswell system, just smaller and cheaper. The hardware feels every bit as well-built as all the other Surface systems, both Pro and non-Pro.

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Mini-review: Hisense’s ARM Chromebook actually isn’t awful for $149 – We weren’t really sure what to expect from Hisense’s $149 Chromebook. We’ve seen Hisense hardware before in the form of $99 and $149 Android tablets from a time when those things hadn’t become common. Those devices were OK, but they cut enough corners that we had trouble recommending them for people who could spend a little more. This Chromebook, on the other hand, is surprisingly good—it’s still budget hardware to be sure, but in many respects it’s pretty similar to the $199 to $299 Chromebooks that are already out there.

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Kifi Debuts A “Deep” Search Engine For Twitter Based On Your Own Tweets – A startup called Kifi is rolling out a new tool that allows you to automatically save all the links you tweet in order to create a personalized search engine that includes those links as well as others it recommends based on what you’ve already shared. Called “Kifi for Twitter,” the company describes the new feature as something of a deep search engine for Twitter because it’s not only indexing the tweet itself, but also the actual content contained in those links you’ve shared, allowing you to more easily retrieve this information in the future.

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Complaint alleges YouTube Kids pushes advertising content – Privacy groups complain that the new service intermingles ads with other content in a way prohibited on TV.

Essential PC, smartphone and tablet repair tools – If you’re in the business of repairing PCs, smartphones, or tablets, then these tools will help you get the job done in a fast, efficient, and safe way.

Google’s mobile network could offer free international ‘roaming’ – Negotiations with Hutchison Whampoa could mean subscribers get free use of mobile phone networks in the UK, Hong Kong, and other countries, according to the UK’s Independent.

Security:

Google let root certificate for Gmail expire, causing e-mail hiccups – On Saturday morning, one of Google’s root certificates expired, causing millions of users’ mail clients to suddenly protest. The certificate for Google’s intermediate certificate authority (Google Internet Authority G2) was used to issue Gmail’s certificate for SMTP, and the expiration at 11:55am EDT caused many e-mail clients to stop receiving Gmail messages. While the problem affected most Gmail users using PC and mobile mail clients, Web access to Gmail was unaffected.

Your Porn Is Watching You – Thirty million Americans regularly watch porn online, according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s a lot more than fess up to it, even in anonymous surveys: In 2013, just ​12 percent of people asked copped to watching internet porn at all. But thanks to pervasive online tracking and browser fingerprinting, the brazen liars of America may not have a say in whether their porn habits stay secret. Porn watchers everywhere are being tracked, and if software engineer Brett Thomas is right, it would be easy to out them, along with an extensive list of every clip they’ve viewed.

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Art by Stephen Maurice Graham

Pointing up  Don’t worry about it – your ISP already collects that data – you know, just in case the government needs to track your “sinful” viewing habits.    Ninja

Vulnerable Dell support tool now detected and flagged as risky software – Older versions of Dell System Detect contain a serious vulnerability that allows hackers to install malware on users’ computers.

Linux Australia breached, personal details leaked – The open-source and free software user group Linux Australia said personal information for attendees of two conferences it hosts may have been leaked after malware was found on one of its servers. The information may have included first and last names, postal and email addresses, phone numbers and hashed passwords, wrote Joshua Hesketh, Linux Australia’s president, on a message board. Financial data was not affected, he wrote. The breach affects those who registered for the group’s Linux conference over the last three years and for python programming conference Pycon Australia in 2013 and 2014, he wrote.

Company News:

Cisco doubling down on malware with new firewall, ThreatGrid integration – The networking giant has a number of new tricks up its sleeves to tackle the spread of malicious activity, including the long-promised integration of ThreatGrid.

Samsung predicts 30 percent drop in profit – Samsung predicts it made around 5.9 trillion won ($5.4 billion) in operating profit between January and March off about 47 trillion won in revenue ($43.2 billion). That represents around a 30 percent drop in profit and a 12 percent slide in sales from the same period a year ago. Samsung hasn’t offered any further information or explanation for the falling numbers, but it’s heading into a crucial quarter with the imminent release of the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge — the company’s most impressive phones in years. If the S6 duo can outperform its disappointing predecessor, the Galaxy S5, it could help turn Samsung’s sales slump around.

Uber to hire slew of engineers, could be developing self-driving cars – Uber has big dreams, one of which might be to run fleets of self driving cars. The ride-share company is hitting the ground running as it looks to hire a range of positions including mechanical engineers from the automotive field and software engineers to work on sensors and vehicle controls. Nineteen positions were posted online today. The job listings are for Uber’s newly established Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, which is a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. This research center will act as an experimental lab where the top minds can solve problems blocking the path to driver-less vehicles.

Games and Entertainment:

You can now get an Xbox One for $225 in the US – If you’re in the market for an Xbox One, a GameStop deal is currently available that could get you the new-gen console for only $225. GameStop is currently running a campaign which gives buyers $125 of in-store credit when you purchase an Xbox One, meaning buyers are getting a good discount. However, to receive the credit users need to turn in their old PS3 or Xbox 360 console.

Farming Simulator Is Way Bigger, More Fun Than You Think – I doubt that publishers want to adapt a game about driving tractors, harvesting fields, and managing a farm into a summer movie blockbuster. But the business potential is obvious, especially if Giants Software and its publishers can convince the North American audience to embrace what Europe already knows: It sounds ridiculous on paper, but Farming Simulator is actually a lot of fun.

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Star Wars Digital HD Collection coming April 10 – It’s not yet May the 4th and it’s definitely not yet Christmas, but it seems that the Force will be in full, well, force this Friday. Come 10th of April, the Interwebs will most likely be clogged when hundreds of Star Wars fans try to download and stream all at once the Star Wars Digital HD collection which, for the first time, brings all, yes all, Star Wars film in digital format, HD quality. That means you can enjoy all of the good and the bad that Star Wars has to offer, wherever you are and on whatever device.

Hulu Launches Its Own GIF Search Engine – Streaming video service Hulu is today launching its own tool for fans of GIFs, with the debut of its own GIF search engine powered by Tumblr. The new site, dubbed “The Perfect GIF,” isn’t just a standard Tumblr blog, however, but more of customized Tumblr experience where you can search for and discover TV-related GIFs by tag, show, reaction or action involved.

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7 Hidden Roku Tricks for Streaming Success – Whether you just got a Roku or you’ve had one for years, there’s more to know beyond the basics of watching Netflix and catching up with “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Crackle. We’ve put together seven ways for you to get more out of your Roku.

April Xbox One update now available for all – The April update for the Xbox One is now rolling out to all users and it brings some useful improvements and fixes to party chat. The ‘What’s on’ tab is also, finally, available to more users.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Living With a Computer – I’d sell my computer before I’d sell my children. But the kids better watch their step. When have the children helped me meet a deadline? When has the computer dragged in a dead cat it found in the back yard?

Pointing up   If you’re a 30+ year computer user, this article will open the memory floodgates.

This working computer is smaller than a grain of rice – The University of Michigan’s Micro Mote is a fully autonomous computer that’s programmed and charged via light and could be used for a variety of medical and industrial purposes.

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Martin Vloet

Watching People Snort Cocaine on Periscope Is Just the Beginning – What’s our obligation when watching people livestream illegal, stupid, or potentially dangerous activity?

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Judge: Facebook can be used to serve divorce papers – Serving divorce papers just became a bit easier, with a judge in Manhattan ruling a Brooklyn resident can serve her husband with divorce papers using the world’s most popular social network. It seems the reason revolves around the defendant’s perpetual lack of a physical address, and his unwillingness to make a personal appearance to be served, as well as his perpetual availability for contact through Facebook… making it the only way to serve the papers. Some have called this a necessary ruling for the modern age.

Philosopher John Gray Believes Humanity’s Desire for Freedom Is a Lie – In his new book The Soul of Marionette, British philosopher John Gray aims to tackle humankind’s relationship with freedom. He claims that people don’t want more freedom of choice, but rather less, as they can’t handle doubt. Gray enjoyed a long academic career with positions at Oxford and the London School of Economics (LSE). However, after the success of his book Straw Dogs he quit academia to spend his time calling out what he sees to be the most questionable myths of our age, one of which being the assumption that the Western world is ethically more advanced than elsewhere, and that its ethical progress is both irreversible and ever-growing.

Something to think about:

“When children feel they have to earn our love by what they accomplish, they never feel good about themselves, no matter how much they do, no matter what their age. Indeed, some adults work outrageous hours, make huge salaries, and always strive to accomplish more and yet are never satisfied, no matter what they have achieved. This is because they were never given the free, unconditional love of their parents, the love that is every child’s birthright.”

–    Julie A., M.A. Ross and Judy Corcoran

Today’s Free Downloads:

Turn Off the Lights for Firefox – Turn Off the Lights for Firefox is a browser extension that lets users obscure everything on their screen except the Flash or HTML5 video they’re watching, minimizing distractions and making for a more pleasant viewing experience. A lamp icon is displayed in the browser menu bar or in the omnibox, and users click on the gray lamp icon to make the area surrounding the video fade. Clicking outside the video restores the rest of the screen. Users can adjust the opacity of the screen blocking and select a color other than black if desired.

Available for IE and Chrome.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Court mulls revealing secret government plan to cut cell phone service – A federal appeals court is asking the Obama administration to explain why the government should be allowed to keep secret its plan to shutter mobile phone service during “critical emergencies.”

The Department of Homeland Security came up with the plan—known as Standing Operating Procedure 303—after cellular phones were used to detonate explosives targeting a London public transportation system.

SOP 303 is a powerful tool in the digital age, and it spells out a “unified voluntary process for the orderly shut-down and restoration of wireless services during critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in February sided (PDF) with the government and ruled that the policy did not need to be disclosed under a Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The court agreed with the government’s citation of a FOIA exemption that precludes disclosure if doing so “could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.”

Why John Oliver Can’t Find Americans Who Know Edward Snowden’s Name; It’s Not About Snowden) – On his HBO program last night, John Oliver devoted 30 minutes to a discussion of U.S. surveillance programs, advocating a much more substantive debate as the June 1 deadline for renewing the Patriot Act approaches (the full segment can be seen here). As part of that segment, Oliver broadcast an interview he conducted with Edward Snowden in Moscow, and to illustrate the point that an insufficient surveillance debate has been conducted, showed video of numerous people in Times Square saying they had no idea who Snowden is (or giving inaccurate answers about him). Oliver assured Snowden off-camera that they did not cherry-pick those “on the street” interviews but showed a representative sample.

Oliver’s overall discussion is good (and, naturally, quite funny), but the specific point he wants to make here is misguided. Contrary to what Oliver says, it’s actually not surprising at all that a large number of Americans are unaware of who Snowden is, nor does it say much at all about the surveillance debate. That’s because a large number of Americans, by choice, are remarkably unaware of virtually all political matters. The befuddled reactions of the Times Square interviewees when asked about Snowden illustrate little about the specific surveillance issue but a great deal about the full-scale political disengagement of a substantial chunk of the American population.

UK government plans to introduce mandatory age-checks on porn sites – The UK’s Conservative party has promised to introduce mandatory age-checks on online pornography websites if re-elected in May this year. Culture secretary Sajid Javid said an independent regulator would work with websites to verify users’ ages using as-yet-unspecified methods. Sites that fail to comply would be blocked by the UK’s internet service providers (ISPs) while ISPs that did not co-operate could be fined.

Although the plans have been welcomed by child welfare charities, experts have warned that mandatory age-checks could be costly and difficult to implement. Some commentators have suggested that the proposals could also lead to greater censorship of the internet in the UK. The new plans have been unfavorably compared with the 2013 opt-out internet filters, which were introduced to help families control access to adult material but inadvertently blocked educational resources such as sexual health websites.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 6, 2015

Facebook launches security primer;  How Facebook knows who your friends are;  How to stay safe online: CNET’s security checklist;  This Is How Drones Work;  The six best HDMI operating system sticks;  YouTube tips we bet you didn’t know;  The 100 Best Android Apps of 2015;  10 ways your Android phone is smarter than you;  How You Can Block Calls and Texts on Your Smartphone;  Here’s how Google Play scans your Android phone;  TrueCrypt Audit: No NSA Backdoors;  6 Makeup Apps for a Whole New You;  15 classic PC games you should play again;  App showdown: Roku vs. Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Fire TV vs. Nexus Player;  Dyre Wolf malware transfers victims to live operator; Three lies about Google Glass;  WinParrot (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Facebook launches primer detailing all things security – Anyone with a social networking account should be mindful not only of what they post on it, but also their security settings — misunderstanding a particular setting, for example, could lead to info you believed was private actually being visible to the public. Facebook has rolled out features that aim to improve the users’ awareness of those security features, including reminders that popup with snippets of information every now and again, and that settings review that rolled out not too long ago. Now it is back with more…a lot more.

How Facebook knows who your friends are, even better than you do – How does Facebook know who your friends are? It’s a mystery that has nagged users since at least 2011, when the Irish Data Protection Commissioner conducted a full-scale investigation into the issue. But four years later, there’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation about what Facebook’s doing when it “finds” your friends. Tracking your circle of friends is much easier than you think, once you answer the few basic questions Facebook asks when you sign up for an account.

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The six best HDMI operating system sticks – There’s a new kind of computer in town and it’s resides on an HDMI stick that’s not much bigger than a pack of gum.

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Fewer than 1% of Android devices affected by potentially harmful apps – Based on data collected by Google, less than one percent of Android devices had a potentially harmful application installed last year. This includes devices on which users have installed applications from outside the official Google Play store. The data was collected through a feature called Verify Apps that was first introduced in Android 4.2 back in 2012. The feature, which was also backported to Android 2.3 and higher in 2013, checks locally installed applications for potentially harmful behavior regardless of whether they were downloaded from Google Play or other sources. Verify Apps initially scanned applications only at installation time, but since March 2014 it also performs background scans, so it can later detect malicious applications that weren’t flagged when they were initially installed.

The 100 Best Android Apps of 2015 – Here in the PC Mag’s New York office, we haven’t seen much of the sun and it’s barely above freezing. But even if it’s still pretty miserable outside, that doesn’t mean you can’t spruce up your Android device with some great new apps! And have we got new apps. This list covers everything you need, from comic books, to finance, to secure messaging services.

10 ways your Android phone is smarter than you – You say you miss your dumbphone, but you really don’t, because your smartphone is, well…a hell of a lot smarter. It’s smarter than your dumbphone, and it’s also (sometimes) smarter than you. And it should be! It’s packed with sensors, a lifetime of Google knowledge, access to the whole Internet, and eerily accurate predictions based on your habits. Here are 10 ways your Android phone is too smart for its own good.

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YouTube tips we bet you didn’t know – It’s easy to spend hours watching YouTube videos about, well, pretty much anything. Using your mouse to adjust a setting isn’t exactly slow, but in some cases, the keyboard shortcuts are much faster. Here is a list of the best YouTube keyboard shortcuts you should start using right now. These shortcuts work when you open a new video, without needing to click anything in the player.

BlueDriver: Diagnose car problems with your smartphone or tablet – Got a ‘Check Engine’ light on your dash, staring at you? Wonder what it means? Wonder how much it will cost you to fix? Wondering if you can fix it yourself, if only you knew what it meant?

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6 Makeup Apps for a Whole New You – Spring makeovers are a perennial topic in the pages of magazines and on YouTube playlists. But unless you snag an appearance on Love, Lust or Run or hire a makeup artist, you’re pretty much on your own in Sephora or your local drugstore when it comes to figuring out what will make you look your best. That is unless you use a makeover app. Facial-recognition technology may be known for more serious uses, like spotting criminals and securing data, but a side benefit is that you can now achieve a sharp new eyeliner look with just a click. The results are often so realistic that selfies can essentially be faux-Photoshopped without your Instagram followers noticing a thing.

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How to get your Chromebook online from anywhere without killing your mobile data cap – Chromebooks were made to be online, even if Wi-Fi’s nowhere to be found. Here’s how to get online with a cellular signal without blowing through your data cap.

Carousel ‘Photo School’ may up your mobile photography game – The best camera you have is the one you’ve got with you, right? We bet your smartphone is on you most of the time, too, making it crucial for getting pics when you’re in a moment. While hardware and software are a big part of taking good pics, so is skill. If you don’t know how to take great photos, yours won’t be very good, regardless of what photo editor or smartphone you have. To help with that, Carousel is introducing Photo School, a series of blogs meant to encourage better smartphone photography.

How You Can Block Calls and Texts on Your Smartphone – No one enjoys cell phone spam, especially aggressive telemarketing calls and texts while you’re on the go. Though you can list your cell phone number on the Do Not Call Registry, that doesn’t stop telemarketing text messages or even all phone calls in our experience. If you’re tired of these nuisances, you have options. You can use the following apps and features built into your phone to help cut down on spam.

Microsoft Changing Default ‘Do Not Track’ Setting – Specifically, Redmond will no longer have the “Do Not Track” option enabled in Windows’ Express Settings, which you can click when you’re installing the operating system, in case you would prefer Microsoft make the decisions for you. Do Not Track is a little setting that you can enable in all of the major Web browsers. Presumably, advertisers are supposed to notice when a browser has the flag flipped on. If that’s the case, third-party advertisers should then exclude that browser from any kind of cross-site tracking. Though, the request is just that—a request that third-party services should follow.

Apple shows what its watch can do in new video tutorials – The company touts key features of its smartwatch in four short video clips released a week before presales start for the pricey device.

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Maximize your SSD’s lifespan with the right maintenance – SSDs differ significantly from the hard drives they’re replacing, including care and feeding. Follow these do’s and don’ts to keep your SSD in shipshape.

Security:

Ransomware alert: ‘Pacman’ scheme uses Dropbox link to gobble victims – All malware is bad, but ransomware is particularly insidious—ask any ransomware victim. That’s why a new attack scheme called “Pacman” has raised alarms, because it’s even nastier than usual. Think of the classic Pac-Man game’s voracious yellow ball, chomping up all of your files. It takes only one click to infect a vulnerable PC, and the attack gives victims only 24 hours to pay the ransom in Bitcoins or risk losing all of the compromised data. The current attack is particularly effective because it’s so convincing.

Here’s how Google Play scans your Android phone – Google has a system enacted through Google Play for Android devices called Verify Apps. Google’s latest Android Security State of the Union (for the year 2014) includes clarification on what the company is scanning on your phone – both inside Google Play-downloaded apps and in apps you’ve downloaded elsewhere. Verify Apps scans your phone’s apps for security risks in Google Play apps, and Safety Net provides protection for (and from) apps outside of Google Play. Yes, Google Play is scanning your phone – no, it’s not something to freak out about.

TrueCrypt Audit: No NSA Backdoors – A security audit of TrueCrypt has determined that the disk encryption software does not contain any backdoors that could be used by the NSA or other surveillance agencies. A report prepared by the NCC Group (PDF) for the Open Crypto Audit Project found that the encryption tool is not vulnerable to being compromised. However, the software was found to contain a few other security vulnerabilities, including one relating to the use of the Windows API to generate random numbers for master encryption key material. Despite this, TrueCrypt was given a relatively clean bill of health with none of the detected vulnerabilities considered severe enough to lead “to a complete bypass of confidentiality in common usage scenarios.”

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TrueCrypt running on my system. TrueCrypt is a very old friend. Good to see that it came through this with a “a relatively clean bill of health.”

Dyre Wolf malware transfers victims to live operator – IBM has detailed a new variation of the Dyre malware, which it is calling “The Dyre Wolf”. The malware targets large enterprises, and comes with an unexpected twist: a bit of social engineering involving a live operator posing as a representative. When on the phone with this operator, the hackers on the other side use banking information provided by the victim to initiate a large wire transfer…and in some cases use a DDoS attack to keep the company from discovering the transfer until it is too late.

Bugs in Tor network used in attacks against underground markets – The operator of an underground marketplace hosted within the Tor network has reported a flaw in Tor that he claims is being used for an ongoing denial of service attack on the site. The problem, which is similar to one reported by another hidden site operator in December on the Tor mailing list, allows attackers to conduct a denial of service attack against hidden sites by creating a large number of simultaneous connections, or “circuits,” via Tor, overwhelming the hidden service’s ability to respond. By sending multiple “introduce” requests to the same hidden service, an attacker could make the targeted server create multiple circuits (paths over the Tor network used for the session), eating the server’s available CPU and network resources and making it inaccessible to users.

How to stay safe online: CNET’s security checklist – It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Especially when it comes to your personal information. Keeping your info secure online requires you to take more time and care, but what you lose in moments you’ll surely make up in peace of mind. Follow the steps below to increase your online security.

Company News:

Last round of job cuts hit hundreds of Microsoft employees – In what is said to be the final round of layoffs for Microsoft’s largest jobs cut in company history, hundreds of employees were released by the company all around the world.

LinkedIn buys social knowledge startup Refresh – Launched three years ago, Refresh is designed to be a “digital briefing book” that can call up online information related to people that users are scheduled to meet. The information can be anything from blog posts, news articles or Facebook posts to personal notes or favorite sports teams. The Refresh mobile and desktop app is aimed at helping people relate to one another more quickly, but it can also be used to refresh one’s memory when running into acquaintances unexpectedly.

Antitrust lawsuit dismissed against Google’s app bundling – The latest class action antitrust lawsuit against Google has been tabled. The dismissed lawsuit was just one among many to hit Google such as a class action suit about Google Wallet’s privacy practices, libel accusations for offending autocomplete suggestions, and copyright infringement for book digitization. The lawsuit in question alleges that Google made illegal contracts with device makers which forced Android OS to use Google’s apps as default settings. The suit then further alleges that these backroom deals drove up consumer prices of these smartphones due to restricting competition.

Nissan CEO: We will have an autonomous vehicle next year – Nissan hopes to have a car that can navigate Japan’s highways on its own next year, and the company plans to have a completely self-driving vehicle for urban areas by 2020. “There will be a Nissan product in Japan, which will carry autonomous drive,” Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters at the New York International Auto Show on Thursday. “Obviously when you have this kind of technology, you want also the Japanese market to enjoy it as soon as possible.” Also this week, auto parts supplier Delphi announced its autonomous Audi completed a 3,500-mile, cross-country journey.

Games and Entertainment:

App showdown: Roku vs. Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Fire TV vs. Nexus Player – App selection should be one of the biggest factors in choosing a streaming media player, because all the fancy features in the world don’t mean much if you can’t actually watch what you want. If you’re just looking to watch Netflix or Hulu Plus, pretty much every device on the market will have you covered. Still, each platform does have its hang-ups, which you can see in the chart below. Have a look, then keep reading for some takeaways and caveats:

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Okay, now let’s answer some questions that I assume will be frequently asked:

Sony will issue either $25 cash or a $50 credit if you bought your PS Vita before June 2012 – In November, Sony was found guilty by the FTC of misleading consumers with their early PS Vita commercials. Now, they will be required to refund $25 cash or $50 in merchandise credit to lucky owners.

BBC teams with BitTorrent to release Doctor Who greatest hits download – Doctor Who fans can now download episodes from BitTorrent without feeling guilty! The BBC and the peer-to-peer sharing platform have officially teamed up to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the sci-fi series’ relaunch with two different BitTorrent Bundles. While this collection of episodes won’t tell the whole story or fully show new viewers why this universe continues to be incredibly popular among the sci-fi set, it does present some of the most beloved episodes in an easy-to-view, easy-to-obtain format that has the potential to rope in even more fans.

15 classic PC games you should play again – Between a flood of HD remasters (Grim Fandango, Homeworld, Resident Evil) and all the games styled to look like older games (Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2) released in the past year, I think we can all agree retro games are back in style. But what about actual retro games—the classics you’ve left gathering dust in old CD-ROM cases or are hoarding in your GOG.com library? April’s a relatively slow month as far as new releases, so maybe it’s the perfect time to revisit some old classics. Me? I’m about to go replay Planescape: Torment. Read on for that and fourteen(ish) other classic games you should play again.

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Duke Nukem 3D

Sling TV takes over DishWorld, re-names it ‘Sling International’ – Today, DishWorld — the international arm of Dish Network — is being re-branded under the Sling name, and will now be known as Sling International. As Sling International, DishWorld owners can access roughly 200 channels spanning 18 languages including Spanish, Punjab, Filipino, Arabic, Hindi, Vietnamese, and both Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese. Content includes sports, news, and general entertainment, and new customers are getting a free month to give Sling International a shot. Just like with DishWorld, there is no hardware to hook up.

Off Topic (Sort of):

This Is How Drones Work – When things look easy, they’re typically anything but. From Ted Williams’ swing to Raymond Carver’s prose to Jennifer Lawrence’s acting, this has been demonstrated time and time again. You might think it’s a leap to include drones with these effortless artists, but hold your judgement until after you watch an unmanned aircraft dance gracefully across the sky. Because while these machines may look like little more than propellers and plastic, these aerial acrobats actually pack a lot of tech into their lightweight frames.

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Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Digital Love – What will it be like when Tinder and Grinder get taken over by advertising? Find out in this grim, hilarious assessment of the near future as created by Logan Fitzpatrick.

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Read the letter Bill Gates sent to Microsoft employees for the company’s 40th anniversary – On April 4th, 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen started a little company named Microsoft. You probably know the story from there: Gates went on to become the wealthiest man in the world, and then gradually pulled back from his company to focus on broad philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But Gates is far from finished at Microsoft; last year after Satya Nadella took over as CEO, Gates said he would be taking a bigger role at the company — using up to a third of his time to advise Microsoft employees on new products. Gates sent the following letter to Microsoft employees today to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary.

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I am not a booth babe. Ask me a question – Commentary: There’s been increasing debate about the role of women in the tech industry, and how they are perceived and portrayed at tech shows. One group has created a new symbol for women who want to stand out — but not as a booth babe.

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Teen rakes in $6,000 on “Uploader for Instagram” app, told to shut down – A developer has pulled his popular “Uploader for Instagram” app from the Mac App Store after Instagram sent him two demand letters. Last month, Caleb Benn, a 17-year-old Los Angeles high school student, released the $5 Mac desktop app that allowed users to upload photos to their Instagram accounts. Instagram had originally sent a letter to Benn on March 28, telling him that his app had violated the company’s Terms of Service. The letter stated that Benn had until March 30 to “fix things.” But after the deadline passed, the app was still available and Instagram had not taken any further action.

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Three lies about Google Glass – In general, the great masses of tech journalists and bloggers are a band of trendy and easily influenced conformists who sometimes care more about staying in tune with the echo chamber than about objective reality. The perfect example for this is how the tech press mob convinced everyone about three Google Glass lies: That Google Glass was an unacceptable invasion of privacy; that it was an overpriced elitist plaything; and that it was a failed and now dead project.

5 Charts That Show Why the iPad’s Fifth Birthday Is Bittersweet – See how crazy people were for the iPad back in 2010 — and how that’s changed

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Cop caught going ballistic on Uber driver apologizes on TV – Technically Incorrect: Detective Patrick Cherry, stripped of his badge for berating an Uber driver (in a YouTube video that went viral), tries to present his side of the story. A wise move?

Something to think about:

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.”

–     Thomas Sowell

Today’s Free Downloads:

WinParrot – WinParrot allows you to record the mouse clicks and keystrokes of your recurring tasks and execute them whenever you choose. Great for saving time on common daily actions.

WinParrot can record and control any application on Windows. It can be used to automate your recurring tasks, load your data into your applications (Internet Explorer, Oracle Applications, SAP …), test the robustness of an application by simulating multiple users, conduct demonstrations or training of an application (by slowing the speed of play and schedule tasks (schedule the execution of macros).

WinParrot requires no installation and no administration right.

Start recording your tasks or your entries, WinParrot will replay them immediately without programming.

With a very simple language (very close to that of Excel) you can insert visual checkpoints, loops, conditions or data from Excel spreadsheets.

You can control the tolerance of an image recognition, shapes or texts, change the speed of typing or moving the mouse….

In order to avoid slowing down your computer WinParrot is optimized to use the least possible of memory and CPU.

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FileVoyager – FileVoyager is a freeware Orthodox file manager (OFM) for Microsoft Windows. OFM’s are file managers using two panels of disks browsers.

This dual pane layout makes very easy the transfer operations of files or folders between sources and destinations.

FileVoyager contains a large collection of tools and functionality.

Features:

Browsing of disks, folders (real or virtual), shares, archives and FTP/FTPS in one unified way

Browsing can be done in various modes (like report or thumbnail modes)

Allowing usual file operations (rename, copy, move, link, delete, recycle) in the containers listed above and even between them

Packing and unpacking of ZIP, 7Zip, GZip, BZip2, XZ, Tar and WIM formats (FileVoyager wraps 7-zip)

Unpacking of ARJ, CAB, XAR, Z, RAR, LZH, LZMA, ISO, WIM and many others (FileVoyager wraps 7-zip)

Playing of virtually any Audio or Video formats (FileVoyager relies at once on installed codecs, on WMP and on VLC)

Offering quick preview capability for any file format with:

Rendering of multimedia files (including M3U, PLS, ASX, WPL, MPCPL and XSPF playlist formats)

Syntax highlighting for virtually any source code language/format (Powered by Scintilla)

Rendering final view for formats supported by Preview Handlers (like Office files, PDF, pictures, …)

Support of many character encodings (SBCS including various ANSI implementations, UTF-8, UTF-16, EBCDIC)

Displaying in flat or hexadecimal for any format

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

After Obama’s cybersecurity order threatens Snowden fund, bitcoin donations spike – A new executive order signed into law this week by the president has one online community up in arms, after its loose wording effectively ruled out donating to Edward Snowden and others.

In a post on Reddit’s Bitcoin subreddit, members pledged to donate to the whistleblower’s relief fund, despite the wording of the new executive order suggesting that doing so was illegal.

In the new executive order, signed into law on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama declared cyber-threats aimed at the US a “national emergency.” The order threatens sanctions against those (including US residents) who engage in cyberattacks and espionage activities that threaten US interests at home and abroad.

The wording of the order specifically addresses any person whose “property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States.”

Redditors were quick to assume (likely correctly) that this includes Edward Snowden, who for more than a year-and-a-half has lived in Russia, evading US justice.

“This is almost as bad as the Patriot Act,” said the user who first posted the thread.

Department of Homeland Security seeking national license plate database – Early last year, it was revealed the Department of Homeland Security was seeking a Federal License Plate Reader Database, something that was later abandoned in light of privacy concerns. Now the DHS has changed its mind and is again pursuing such a national database, soliciting bids from those who could provide it with such a product. The reason for its return is the department’s belief it can now mitigate those aforementioned privacy worries. To prove it, DHS has published a report detailing the info.

In New Video, Congressman Explains Why His Fellow Lawmakers Couldn’t Be Trusted with NSA Oversight – Congressmen who asked about oversight of NSA mass surveillance and domestic spying in 2013 could have “compromise[d] security” and were denied the records they sought because of concerns they lacked formal government security clearance, a former member of the House Intelligence Committee says in a newly-released video.

The footage, from an August 29, 2013 town hall meeting, sheds new light on why lawmakers were denied key rulings and reports from the secret courts overseeing the National Security Agency — even as the Obama administration and intelligence officials claimed that all NSA programs were subject to strict congressional oversight and therefore could be held accountable.

Light the torches! NSA’s BFF Senator Feinstein calls for e-book burning – Feinstein (D-CA) did not say exactly how she plans to scrub The Anarchist Cookbook and Inspire magazine from every server, desktop and notebook on the planet, but none the less she wants both titles pulled from circulation.

The comments come after two women were arrested in New York City on charges of plotting terrorist attacks.

The duo reportedly had ties to the late former editor of the Al-Qaeda backed English-language Inspire, and were accused of seeking out other bomb-making guides in preparation for an attack.

Now Feinstein, a big fan of America’s surveillance apparatus, wants to make both Inspire and the 1969 Anarchist Cookbook illegal to make available online.

“We must remain vigilant against these types of attacks and place a high priority on tracking and interdicting such plots,” the fifth-term Senator said.

Pointing up   When will American politicians, like this stupid woman, start to realize that they do not control the Internet. As a Canadian, I take offense at the suggestion that this technology challenged woman should have any impact on what is available to me, or anyone else for that matter, on the Internet.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 2, 2015

The Dark Ages of Search;  Apps track your location every 3 minutes;  3 Charts That Show Why We’re Addicted to Our Phones;  How to Enable and Delete Cookies on Your Browser;  Riff Lets Friends Add Clips To Collaborative Videos;  Microsoft finally gets it right with the Surface 3;  Google cracks down on browser ad injectors;  Everything you need to know about Device Protection in Android 5.1;  RadioShack update: User data is safe for now;  PlayStation Plus members, these are your free games for April;  HBO is headed to Sling TV this month;  Google’s ARC now runs Android apps on Chrome OS, Windows, Mac, and Linux;  5 Video Games You’ll Want to Buy in April;  RSA Conference 2015 bans booth babes;  TunnelBear (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Dark Ages of Search – It’s obvious that search is broken when you actually try to find something online besides a shopping site, fake review site, or something Google owns or wants to promote. A recent investigation of the company by the FTC found all sorts of violations of the public trust. Of course that seems like no big deal in an era of payday loans, massive national banks that are “too big to fail,” phony fees tacked on to pretty much everything, consumer fraud, illegal spam, fake drugs, militarized local police, falling wages, slipshod quality control, and endless scams in every part of society. Why does anyone expect Google to be above it all and give us search results that are on the up and up? Well, there is one reason.

Wearing GPS ankle monitor is a search, yet apps track your location every 3 minutes – The Supreme Court said tracking a person via GPS ankle bracelet, to know geolocation at all times, qualifies as a ‘search’ and could violate the Fourth Amendment, yet Android apps track and can share your location every three minutes. GPS gives location and if you have a smartphone then your location is shared a ridiculous number of times per hour by apps, according to a recent study (pdf) conducted by Carnegie Mellon University. At one point in the study, 23 Android smartphone users would receive a daily “privacy nudge” that provided “concise privacy-relevant information” about how many times their location, phone contact lists, calendar or call logs had been shared. One user was notified, “Your location has been shared 5,398 times with Facebook, Groupon, GO Launcher EX and seven other apps in the last 14 days.”

Facebook’s Newest App Riff Lets Friends Add Clips To Collaborative Videos – Shoot a video of up to 20 seconds in Riff, and give it a title that instructs others what they should add to it like “Make A Funny Face” or “Birthday Wishes For Johnny” or “Adventures Of Mr. Banana.” Friends will see the video on Riff and get a notification inviting them to contribute, with each clip tacked on at the end. The contributors’ friends are then invited to add scenes, too. Here’s a look at what it’s like to use Riff:

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3 Charts That Show Why We’re Addicted to Our Phones – A new report from Pew Research Center takes a sobering look at why many Americans just can’t be without their smartphones.

How to Enable and Delete Cookies on Your Browser – Take control of a tiny bit of your online privacy by blocking, deleting, and allowing only select cookies.

Twitch adds YouTube-style persistent player to its mobile apps, as streaming battle ramps up – Twitch isn’t adding this feature just to be nice. If YouTube is planning to game streaming as rumored, Twitch needs to up its own game.

Microsoft finally gets it right with the Surface 3 – The new Surface 3 from Microsoft delivers a solid compromise between power and price that hits the sweet spot for many consumers.

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Google’s ARC now runs Android apps on Chrome OS, Windows, Mac, and Linux – ARC is an early beta though so Google has kept the project’s reach very limited—only a handful of apps have been ported to ARC, which have all been the result of close collaborations between Google and the app developer. Now though, Google is taking two big steps forward: it’s allowing any developer to run their app on ARC via a new Chrome app packager, and it’s allowing ARC to run on any desktop OS with a Chrome browser.

NASA launches web tool for exploring asteroid Vesta – NASA has launched a new web tool that is akin to Google Earth, only it allows Internet goers to explore the asteroid Vesta. Vesta is said to be one of the largest asteroids in our solar system, and it was studied by the spacecraft Dawn from summer 2011 to late summer 2012. The web tool includes a lot of data that was gathered by the spacecraft during its mission, which the user can select as desired in the course of things. Included with the tool are “standard keyboard gaming controls”, 3D topography that can be exported, and more.

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Flickr lets photographers set their work free with Public Domain, CC0 tags – Because not every picture needs to turn a profit, Flickr is making it easier for photographers to distribute their work with no strings attached.

A year after its demise, Windows XP still has more users than Windows 8 and 8.1 combined – With the upcoming anniversary of Windows XP reaching the end of its life, the OS still has more users than Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combined. According to NetMarketShare, Windows XP still holds a market share of 16.94% as of March 2015. In the same report it shows that Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 hold a combined market share of 14.07%. While Windows XP narrowly holds on to its pole position, its gradual decline suggests that users are finally ready to let go of the antiquated operating system.

Security:

Admin rights to blame for 97 percent of critical Microsoft flaws – Report – An analysis of Microsoft Patch Tuesday bulletins suggests that 97 percent of all reported critical security vulnerabilities could have been mitigated simply by removing administrator rights. So what does a user lose if they are stripped of admin rights? Avecto explains admin rights to typically include the ability to install, modify and delete software and files, in addition to adjusting system settings. Normally, admin rights should not be granted on a majority of employee machines. The reason, the report pointed out, is because user accounts with those types of admin privileges are the primary targets for exploitation by malware, as they provide unrestricted access to an endpoint.

Google cracks down on browser ad injectors after shocking study – More than 100,000 Chrome users have complained to Google about extensions injecting ads into their browser windows since January 1, 2015 alone, and now The Chocolate Factory is moving to block the worst offenders. Ad injectors are extensions – or occasionally standalone apps – that replace native advertising on web pages with whatever the software’s creator wants you to see. They can range from being simply annoying to a serious security risk, as was seen in the Lenovo Superfish debacle. Google isn’t planning to get rid of all ad injectors, however. If the software tells the user exactly what it’s doing and it doesn’t interfere with website-specified advertising, then the Chocolate Factory will show some leeway.

RadioShack update: User data is safe for now, while Sprint co-branding is in the works – The user data could still be sold someday, though, and the union of two troubled companies may or may not pay off. Stay tuned as the drama unfolds!

Obama signs bill to allow sanctions be placed on ‘malicious’ hackers – Taking dead aim at “malicious cyber attackers”, President Obama today signed into law a bill that will allow those who target US companies for things like DDoS attacks to have sanctions imposed upon them. In announcing the bill, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism chief Lisa Monaco said “by freezing assets of those subject to sanctions and making it more difficult for them to do business with U.S. entities, we can remove a powerful economic motivation for committing these acts in the first place”.

Firefox 37 enhances security – Mozilla has released Firefox 37.0. This update includes security fixes for four critical, two high, five moderate and one low impact vulnerability. Among the new and changed features that enhance security are improved protection against site impersonation, opportunistic encryption of HTTP data (for instances where legacy content disallows migration to HTTPS), disabled insecure TLS version fallback, improved certificate and TLS communication security by removing support for DSA, and (for developers) a new Security Panel included in Network Panel. One new feature that could improve Firefox usability in the long run is Heartbeat, a system for collecting feedback from the user population.

Everything you need to know about Device Protection in Android 5.1 – Android’s new Device Protection system can keep a thief from using your phone, but it won’t work without the proper settings. In addition, it can backfire if you sell your phone without disabling Device Protection first. There are definitely some things you need to know.

GitHub 1, China 0, as sustained cyberattack ends after five days – The code-sharing website is back up and running after a week-long attack crippled its services. The attack was blamed on Beijing, an allegation it didn’t actually deny.

Company News:

IBM And Apple Release Eight More Enterprise Apps For Healthcare, Airlines And More – Apple and IBM’s partnership that has the companies working together to produce enterprise-friendly apps has expanded yet again with the addition of eight more apps designed for iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad, bringing the total number of MobileFirst apps up to now 22. The new apps are focused on the healthcare and industrial products industries, following prior announcements that saw the release of apps specific to banking and finance, travel and transportation, energy and utilities, law enforcement, retail, insurance, and more.

Judge rejects AT&T claim that FTC can’t stop unlimited data throttling – A federal judge has rejected AT&T’s claim that it can’t be sued by the Federal Trade Commission, which is trying to put a stop to the carrier’s throttling of unlimited data plans. The FTC sued AT&T in October 2014, saying the company deceived customers by offering unlimited data plans and then throttling data speeds once customers hit certain usage thresholds, such as 3GB or 5GB in a month. AT&T claimed in January that because it is a common carrier, it isn’t subject to FTC jurisdiction. In a decision out of US District Court in Northern California yesterday, Judge Edward Chen refused to dismiss the lawsuit.

GoDaddy Pops Nearly 31% As It Opens For Trading, Raising $460M In Its IPO – Web hosting company GoDaddy is going strong in its first day as a public company. The company, which yesterday priced its IPO at $20 per share with plans to sell 23 million shares, raised some $460 million today as it saw its stock pop over 30% in its debut on the NYSE, opening at $26.15. Trading under the GDDY ticker, at the time of writing, GoDaddy’s stock has continued to rise and is currently at 30% above its opening price, working out to a market cap of $6.3 billion. GoDaddy originally expected to price its offering at between $17 and $19 per share.

Cricket Wireless partners with Amazon for BYOD kit – Cricket has announced a new partnership with Amazon that will open up the carrier to those who prefer to bring their own device. Under the partnership, Cricket Wireless has introduced a Bring Your Own Device Universal SIM Card Activation Kit; it is being offered through Amazon which, presumably, is hoping consumers will pick up a new tablet or smartphone while on the retailer’s site. As you’d expect, the SIM activation kit includes all the things one needs to activate a smartphone on the carrier’s network, including adapters to make sure the SIM card fits any particular phone.

Games and Entertainment:

PlayStation Plus members, these are your free games for April – April is finally here and so are the new games for PlayStation Plus members. If you’ve been clamoring for something new to play, Sony has just unveiled titles for the PS4, PS3, and PS Vita.

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Mario Kart 8 gets a new DLC pack and a speed boost at 200cc! – Mario Kart has gone through innumerable incarnations, and Nintendo Wii U’s Mario Kart 8 is about to get even more fun. Nintendo is adding a slew of new features in its latest paid DLC Pack 2, including new race tracks, new bikes, and more. There’s also a free software update for the game coming soon. Also incoming are nine additional amiibo figures like Sonic, Pac-Man, and Mega Man. Tapping the amiibo figure on the Wii U touchpad unlocks new Mii Racing Suits themed accordingly.

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HBO is headed to Sling TV this month – Sling TV wants to free you of the cable shackles that bind you. HBO is aiming for the same effect, as their recent Apple TV deal highlighted at Apple’s latest gathering. The two, it seems, would be a match made in heaven. Like so much other cable content already has, a new report says HBO is headed to Sling TV. In a deal with Dish Network, who operate Sling TV, HBO is said to offer up their service to the Internet TV service, and will also provide HBO NOW to Dish.

New expansion for Xbox One exclusive ‘Sunset Overdrive’ launches – The newest downloadable expansion for the Xbox One exclusive third-person action game “Sunset Overdrive” has launched, adding an entirely new area to the game. In addition to the expansion pack, a new achievement worth 200 gamerscore has been added. Players can obtain the “Worst Job in the Kingdom” achievement by completing the “Floating Garbage” mission in or under the par time of 15 minutes. The expansion also adds nine of its own achievements. The expansion costs $10 on its own, though it is also included in the game’s season pass, which costs $20 and includes the game’s previous two add-ons.

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5 Video Games You’ll Want to Buy in April – Yet another month of highly anticipated video game releases is upon us, and a short but sweet selection of excellent titles are scheduled to hit store shelves in the coming weeks. Click on the slideshow links above or below to take a look at our picks for April’s hottest video game titles.

Off Topic (Sort of):

RSA Conference 2015 bans ‘booth babes’, says to dress professionally – The inclusion of so-called “booth babes” at tech and similar events has been a long-standing tradition, but one that has been falling out of favor in recent years, being regarded as unnecessary or offensive, among other things. Some have rallied to end the practice, which is meant to entice event goers toward some particular booth or product, and those efforts are slowly paying off, with some events and companies banning the practice. Latest to the ban list is the RSA Conference 2015, which has said that everyone who attends must adhere to a business dress code.

Pointing up    Applause from this desk!

These maps show why internet is way more expensive in the US than Europe – More than a quarter of Americans cannot go online at home to pay bills, check their children’s grades at school, apply for jobs, or research health issues. They don’t have what has become a crucial service for participation in modern society: internet service at home. The proportion of households with internet service had been rising steadily for decades, according to the Pew Research Center, until the past few years when the adoption rate slowed. One reason? The high cost of broadband, and the lack of competition that leads to those high prices.

Over 40 US tech leaders urge legislators to “forbid” LGBT discrimination – A letter posted to the Human Rights Campaign blog on Wednesday, signed by CEOs and executives representing 42 tech companies across the United States, urged legislators around the country to update their states’ civil rights laws in the wake of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The letter’s co-signers included the CEOs of Twitter, eBay, Lyft, Airbnb, Square, about.me, Tumblr, and Evernote, along with high-ranking executives at Cisco, YCombinator, and Zynga. It also included the signatures of Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, both of whom had already written open letters emphatically opposing the RFRA, but it did not include a signature from Apple CEO Tim Cook, who had already written a similar call to other states’ legislatures over the weekend in a Washington Post op-ed.

NYPD cop reassigned after passenger films xenophobic rant on Uber driver – A New York Police Department detective has been transferred from his position on the Joint Terrorism Task Force after a video of his xenophobic tirade against an Uber driver surfaced online. Det. Patrick Cherry is in hot water following his rant Monday that was filmed by a backseat passenger and uploaded to social media. As of Tuesday, the 3.5-minute-long video was viewed nearly 800,000 times on YouTube alone. The officer at one point pounds the vehicle with his hand and blurts to the driver, who is of unknown nationality, “I don’t know what fucking planet you’re on,” according to the video. Tuesday’s reassignment of Cherry is the latest development in which citizen videos uploaded to YouTube have gotten NYPD cops in hot water.

Global executions – Reported executions by state governments in 2014

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Let’s Make ‘Off The Grid’ A Thing Of The Past – We live in a world where there are nearly as many cell phone subscriptions as people on Earth, where we can instantly see a real-time view of streets or buildings halfway across the planet, and where our TVs, homes and cars get smarter by the day. The level of connectivity that we currently enjoy could barely have been imagined even a decade ago, and yet the reality is that even today we are connected to less than one-quarter of the entire planet.

Something to think about:

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”

–     Madeleine L’Engle

Today’s Free Downloads:

TunnelBear – TunnelBear wants to bring the benefits of VPN to everyone with their simple application for PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

Browse privately – Secure your data and hide your IP address behind a bear.

Experience the Internet as if you’re in another country – A TunnelBear can “tunnel” you around censorship and blocked sites to another country of your choosing.

Zap creepy trackers – Block the website trackers (ads, analytics, scripts, social buttons) that track everything you and your family do online.

A TunnelBear is really, really simple – On. Off. On. Off. You get the idea.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Canada: Anti-terrorism Act: The government has still not made its case – The Harper government’s Anti-terrorism Act went through a final day of committee hearings on Tuesday that was nasty, brutish and short. A single day was plainly not enough to consider clause-by-clause amendments to a bill that will give uncomfortable new powers to the government when it passes in June. And it comes on the heels of a truncated series of meetings where the Conservative members who dominate the public safety committee hijacked the venue to attack, in snide terms, the credibility of witnesses who criticized the many troubling aspects of the bill.

The objects of the Conservative MPs’ puerile insults – “Are you fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the street?” was one of their questions – included the Canadian Bar Association and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. But at least those groups got the chance to be abused by the committee. The government did not even allot time to Canada’s privacy commissioner to testify about a bill that clearly infringes on Canadians’ rights.

How does Bill C-51 do that? It gives government departments the ability to share otherwise protected information about any person or group deemed to be a threat to national security. It transforms our spy service, CSIS, from an intelligence-gathering agency to one with police powers, whose members can “disrupt” threats of terrorism. The government has still not said whether “disrupt” means the power to detain and interrogate, though it has at least said it does not include the power to arrest.

How Big Business Is Helping Expand NSA Surveillance, Snowden Be Damned – Since November 11, 2011, with the introduction of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, American spy agencies have been pushing laws to encourage corporations to share more customer information. They repeatedly failed, thanks in part to NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass government surveillance. Then came Republican victories in last year’s midterm Congressional elections and a major push by corporate interests in favor of the legislation.

Today, the bill is back, largely unchanged, and if congressional insiders and the bill’s sponsors are to believed, the legislation could end up on President Obama’s desk as soon as this month. In another boon to the legislation, Obama is expected to reverse his past opposition and sign it, albeit in an amended and renamed form (CISPA is now CISA, the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act”). The reversal comes in the wake of high-profile hacks on JPMorgan Chase and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The bill has also benefitted greatly from lobbying by big business, which sees it as a way to cut costs and to shift some anti-hacking defenses onto the government.

For all its appeal to corporations, CISA represents a major new privacy threat to individual citizens. It lays the groundwork for corporations to feed massive amounts of communications to private consortiums and the federal government, a scale of cooperation even greater than that revealed by Snowden. The law also breaks new ground in suppressing pushback against privacy invasions; in exchange for channeling data to the government, businesses are granted broad legal immunity from privacy lawsuits — potentially leaving consumers without protection if companies break privacy promises that would otherwise keep information out of the hands of authorities.

Review body for Canada’s electronic spy agency warns it can’t keep up – The 11-person review body looking into Canada’s massive electronic spy agency worry they can’t keep up with the Communications Security Establishment’s growth.

The Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner has warned that the growth of CSE and fiscal restraint at the commissioner’s office is a “constant concern.”

“Cost sharing related to central agency initiatives and fiscal restraint measures are reducing the flexibility of the office’s available funding,” a report tabled in Parliament Tuesday reads. “CSE, however, is growing and its activities are changing in response to a changing environment.”

CSE Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe has a team of around eight investigators and an annual budget of $2 million. CSE, Canada’s answer to the U.S. National Security Agency, is projected to spend $538.2 million this year, and has over 2,000 employees.

On Monday, another spying overseer, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) warned that continued vacancies on its five-person board, the inability to investigate CSIS operations with other agencies, and delays in CSIS providing required information were resulting in “key risks” to its mandate.

The CSE report suggests the commissioner will engage part-time subject matter experts when required to supplement his permanent staff. But it also says that an increase in funding would resolve the “capacity issue” and “provide the necessary assurances to . . . Canadians as to whether CSE is complying with the law and has due regard for the privacy of Canadians.”

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 1, 2015

The Best Free Antivirus for 2015;  WhatsApp brings voice calling for everyone;  How to Recover Deleted Files;  Use Infinit for direct fileshares with no size limits;  Hisense And Haier Launch $149 Chromebooks;  ASUS Chromebit packs Chrome OS into an HDMI dongle;  Essential Dropbox tools for productive people;  How to figure out if a website is down…or if it’s just you;  How to Find Your IP Address;  Facebook’s tracking cookies affect even users who opt out;  Google Maps Easter Egg Sets Pac-Man Loose On City Streets;  Energy companies around the world infected by newly discovered malware;  AAA Video Shows Just How Stupid Technology Makes Teen Drivers;  Indian government mandates use of open source software;  Google Says 5% Of Visitors To Its Sites Have Ad Injectors Installed;  Teens hit with child porn charges after tweeting their group-sex video;  Windows Firewall Control (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Best Free Antivirus for 2015 – “Antivirus? Why should I spend money on something that comes with Windows,” you may ask. Well, two things. First, the antivirus built into Windows is better than nothing, but in testing it doesn’t remotely compare to third-party antivirus solutions. Second, who said you have to spend money? We’ve rounded up a collection of totally free antivirus products that should serve you well. Your antivirus should definitely have the ability to root out existing malware, but its ongoing task is to prevent any nasty programs from getting a foothold. All of the antivirus programs in this collection offer real-time protection against malware attack. Some take the fight upstream, working hard to ensure you never even browse to a malware-hosting site.

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How to Recover Deleted Files – We’ve all accidentally sent a file to the Recycle Bin (or Trash on the Mac). Thankfully, operating systems have known for years that when you drag a file to a garbage can icon, it should not instantly delete that file. You can generally open that trash icon, find your file, and restore it to its proper place on your hard drive. The problem comes after you’ve emptied that recycle bin. Then you’re in trouble. But all is not lost.

WhatsApp update on Android brings voice calling for everyone – The latest update for the Android version of WhatsApp available from the Google Play Store is enabling the voice calling functionality for all users worldwide without an invite.

Use Infinit for direct fileshares with no size limits – When you want to share a file with your mobile device, or even another computer, you may use cloud storage to get the job done. While this is a decent solution, it falls short in requiring you to wait for the file to transfer twice (the uploading and the downloading). Additionally, most cloud storage services have a limit on your total space, or even on individual file size that you can share. Instead, Infinit hopes to become your go-to file transfer service. Their app is available on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. In just a few steps you can share files directly, with no size limit, to yourself or others. Here’s how:

Google Apps and Office 365 compared in one Venn diagram – Summary:Both Microsoft and Google have compelling productivity offerings, along with deep and rich ecosystems. That makes comparing them a challenge for most managers. David Gewirtz compares most of the programs’ key elements in one Venn diagram (and a big table).

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Google vs. Microsoft in a Venn diagram

With Curator, Twitter is taking Tweets mainstream – Sometimes when you’re watching a TV show or web broadcast, you might see Tweets from people pop up, which typically serve to underscore whatever your host may be discussing. To make that easier for broadcasters, Twitter is unearthing Curator, which has been in a kind of beta program until today. With Curator, those who distribute all types of content will be able to populate a Twitter feed alongside their feed, pulling the audience at home into the world of published content.

Survey: A majority of Apple Pay users encounter problems – Issues include terminals that are out of order and transactions that take too long to complete.

Hisense And Haier Launch $149 Chromebooks – A few weeks ago Google made headlines with the launch of the new Chromebook Pixel, the highest-end Chromebook on the market (and with a price to show for it). Today, the Chrome OS laptop ecosystem is launching two products that are the exact opposite: the Haier Chromebook 11 (now available online at Amazon) and the Hisense Chromebook (now available at Walmart). Both of these 11.6-inch Chromebooks will retail for $149, making them the most affordable Chromebooks yet.

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Hands on: The $149 Hisense Chromebook succeeds at being incredibly affordable – It would be easy to ding this device for what it doesn’t have, but this Chromebook isn’t about flashy features. It’s about making a PC pretty much anyone could own.

ASUS Chromebit packs Chrome OS into an HDMI dongle – The Chromecast has now got a big brother, the ASUS Chromebit, packing a full Chromebook into an HDMI dongle that can turn any display into a Chrome OS computer. Plugging straight into a spare HDMI port, and running exactly the same Chrome OS software as any other Chrome machine, the stick marks a further expansion in form-factors for the platform, which began with straightforward notebooks but has since progressed to desktops, all-in-ones, and convertible tablets. It’s also promising to be one of the most inexpensive ways to play with Google’s web-centric software.

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How to figure out if a website is down…or if it’s just you – Can’t connect to a particular website? Here’s how to troubleshoot it.

Facebook’s new ‘Scrapbook’ helps parents keep baby photos in one place – Facebook is in the process of rolling out a new “Scrapbook” feature that gives parents a simple way of putting photos of their newborns, toddlers, and kids under the age of 13 in one spot. Rather than a proper profile (users can’t sign up for those until they’re 13), Scrapbook serves as a handy tool for amassing all those baby photos and storing them in a dedicated, easy-to-access place on Facebook.

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Essential Dropbox tools for productive people – One of the most attractive things about Dropbox is the number and variety of third-party apps that integrate with it to expand its capabilities. Here are five of our favorites.

Microsoft’s new operating system reinvents MS-DOS for mobile – Microsoft has today launched MS-DOS Mobile, a stunning new DOS-based platform designed especially for mobile phones, which aims to take productivity back to where it all started with a simple OS.

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Amazon wants you to place product buttons around your home – Remember writing grocery lists and sticking them to your fridge? Amazon thinks you should now leave the task of restocking food and household supplies to a button. The company announced a new device on Tuesday called the Dash Button, which connects to your smartphone using a Wi-Fi network. With one touch, the button will automatically reorder a product. There are buttons for a variety of products that Amazon sells, from Bounty paper towels to Glad trash bags to Larabar energy bars. The device is only available to Prime members.

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How to Find Your IP Address – The numbers that identify your computer are easy to find, when you know where and how to look.

Security:

Facebook’s tracking cookies affect even users who opt out, claims EU report – Facebook is continuing to monitor the browsing habits of European users even when they explicitly opt-out of tracking, claims a new report compiled by the Belgian Privacy Commission. The social network tracks users that are logged out of the site and individuals who do not have a Facebook account, say researchers. This, they say, means that Facebook is not only ignoring the data rights of users but is also in breach of European law requiring users to consent to having tracking cookies placed on their computer.

You can finally opt out and remove Verizon’s “supercookie” – Verizon Wireless is finally letting users completely opt out of its tracking program which uses undeletable tracking codes called “supercookies”. Prior to this, customers no longer received targeted advertizing after opting out from Verizon’s data collection program. Still, customers’ browsing history and metadata was being stored by Verizon. Under its data collection program, Verizon tracks personal data by tagging customers with a unique customer identifier code. This “supercookie” code was un-removable under Verizon’s previous opt-out policy wherein users could halt the gathering of their browsing habits, but they would still be tagged with a customer identifier code. Now, users can ask Verizon to remove their customer ID code supercookie.

Google Says 5% Of Visitors To Its Sites Have Ad Injectors Installed – According to a study Google conducted with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, 5 percent of people visiting Google’s sites and services now have at least one ad injector installed. When it comes to malware, ad injectors may seem relatively benevolent at first. They put an ad on your Google Search page that didn’t belong there, for example. That’s annoying, but doesn’t seem dangerous. But ad injection was pretty much what Lenovo’s Superfish was doing and that created plenty of security issues for users. Indeed, the research, which is based on the analysis of 100 million pageviews across Google’s sites from Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, classified about a third of these injectors as “outright malware.”

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Energy companies around the world infected by newly discovered malware – Researchers have uncovered an ongoing espionage campaign that uses custom-developed malware to siphon confidential data out of energy companies around the world. Trojan.Laziok, as the malware has been dubbed, acts as a reconnaissance tool that scours infected computers for data including machine name, installed software, RAM size, hard disk size, GPU details, CPU details, and installed antivirus software, according to a blog post published Monday by researchers from security firm Symantec. The attackers then use the data to decide how to infect the computer with additional malware, including versions of Backdoor.Cyberat and Trojan.Zbot that are tailored for the a specific compromised computer.

Company News:

Charter to buy cable operator Bright House for $10.4 billion – If the deal is approved, Charter Communications will become the No. 2 cable company in the US, at a time when more people are cutting the cord in favor of services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Judge: Mississippi investigation of Google likely violates 1st Amendment – US District Judge Henry Wingate has published an opinion laying out his reasoning for siding with Google. In a 25-page order (PDF), Wingate found “significant evidence of bad faith” on Hood’s part. In his order, Wingate sided with Google on every significant point, finding that the company is likely to prevail on claims that Hood’s wide-ranging investigation violated Google’s 1st and 4th Amendment rights. Hood’s concerns about piracy on Google are likely to fail, since enforcing copyright is the domain of the federal government. Similarly, Hood’s concerns that Google searches lead to illegal sales of prescription drugs are preempted by the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

GoDaddy IPO shares expected to top estimates with $4.5 billion valuation – The domain hosting service has been humming along with a highly-anticipated initial public offering plan, and now it looks like shares are poised to get off to a good start very soon.

Apple tipped to be poaching Tidal talent for new streaming service – Streaming is getting serious, and finally beneficial for artists. With Tidal, Jay-Z created a service that gave much of the power back to artists. The catch was exclusivity on the platform, at least for a while, but the real goal is to change the tide of streaming. If a report on what Beats paid artists is accurate, or Taylor Swift’s battle with Spotify is an indicator, Jay-Z is hitting the right notes with Tidal. Apple, believed to be readying a new streaming service, is now said to be toying with Tidal, and trying to poach artists away from the service.

Apple remains among Samsung’s top revenue sources – Samsung’s annual year-end financial report has revealed that rival Apple was one of the South Korean tech giant’s top sources of revenue for 2014. According to Samsung’s annual end-of-year filings for 2014 to South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service, Apple, Deutsche Telekom, Ingram Micro, Sprint, and Verizon were the top five sources of income for the Korean tech giant, with the companies’ business amounting to a collective 13 percent of its revenue. The amount each contributed was not disclosed in the report, but Samsung posted a total revenue of 206 trillion won ($185 billion) last year.

Games and Entertainment:

The new Mad Max: Fury Road trailer is the absolute craziest yet – Deserts are incredible settings for anything on film, but that is apparently so much truer when it comes to insane action sequences and strange post-apocalyptic cults. Mad Max’s gorgeous wasteland of a world has been shown off in every trailer for Fury Road so far, but this latest somehow takes it all three steps further, showing creepy interiors, terrifying landscapes, and the wild chase sequences taking place on them. Forget Furious 7, it’s hard to remember a recent driving sequence that looked anywhere near this cool. It’ll be in theaters May 15th.

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Google Maps Easter Egg Sets Pac-Man Loose On City Streets – Google has created a new Easter Egg for Google Maps (pretty much just in time for actual Easter) which lets you play Pac-Man in real-world locales on the company’s Maps apps for desktop and mobie devices. It’s easy to play, by either navigating to the Google Maps website or opening the app on your Android or iOS device, and then just searching for a location where Pac-Man might show up. Google is offering hints to help you find the iconic 1980s video game protagonist, but if you’re in a hurry just search for “times square” and you should see a pixelated map flag icon like the one pictured here. Click on that and you’ll launch into a game with simple controls, letting you control Pac-Man as he evades his ghostly enemies with either the arrow keys on a computer or by swiping up, down, left and right to change direction on mobile.

Bloodborne completed in 44 minutes – Ever since Bloodborne released last week my Twitter feed has been full of links to video playthroughs and comments on just how hard it is. However, one gamer has managed to complete the game in just 44 minutes. The gamer in question goes by the name of Oginam_tv on YouTube and the 44 minute playthrough is the fastest he can do it without aiming for any kind of high percentage finish. But he also makes it clear he is taking advantage of an item duplication bug that makes the game much easier than it would otherwise be. So while it’s fast, it’s not “legal” shall we say. You can watch the playthrough below, but be warned it does contain some spoilers if you intend on playing the game yourself.

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Fan-made Mario 64 remake disappears following Nintendo copyright complaint – Nintendo has issued a takedown request for the browser-based Super Mario 64 remake that delighted the internet last week. If you attempt to play the game, created by student Erik Roystan Ross as an experiment with the Unity game engine, you’ll instead see a series of emails, including a copyright complaint from Nintendo of America.

Sling TV users revolt after content restrictions hit select channels – Sling TV is an exciting option for television viewers, giving the best of television while offering the convenience and piecemeal freedom that comes with watch-it-anywhere Internet streaming. The service, which is from Dish Network, offers a core package that includes many channels streaming in real-time, counted among them being such popular offerings as ESPN, AMC, Disney, ABC Family, CNN, and more. Some users have discovered that not all is quite as it seems, however, and they have started to revolt.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Ubisoft’s triple-threat release – This week Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed Chronicles, the next in a line of titles headed to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and gaming PCs. This title will follow three “famous Assassins” to China, India, and Russia, and will be released in three parts. The first part will be Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, followed by Chronicles: India, and Chronicles: Russia. The first of three titles will be released on April 21st in North and South America, while EMEA will get the game on the 22nd of April.

Off Topic (Sort of):

I’ve been at this blogging thing for a good number of years now – and before that, as a writer for a “top 20” web site. Through those years, I’ve met hundreds of readers, many of whom have favoured me with their friendship. And that, has been the most significant personal benefit in my blogging journey.

Time to shine the spotlight on some of these good people who have managed to put up with my occasional furious rants over the years.

So, to John Bent – my good and true friend – fellow April baby, and fellow “old guy” – Happy Birthday, John.    Birthday cake

Thousands call on Congress to overturn net neutrality rules – A petition from conservative group American Commitment calls the rules the ‘most radical act imaginable’.

Indian government mandates use of open source software – Country’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology releases new policy that makes it mandatory for all e-government systems to be deployed on open source software.

AAA Video Shows Just How Stupid Technology Makes Teen Drivers – A startling new video released by the Automobile Association of America shows that teen drivers tend to be very bad drivers because they’re distracted. In this montage, the teens are too focused on their phones, talking with friends or flipping the radio station that they veer right off the road. Perhaps one of the most alarming moments of the two-minute clip is the teenage boy who has his eyes transfixed on his phone that he doesn’t pay attention to the road and drifts into a sign. AAA says that distrac​tion, whether from its friends or phones, is a factor in 58 percent of moderate and severe teenage accidents—four times higher than what the United States government estimates.

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World’s largest group of pharmacists tells members not to help with executions – In 2011, Europe began halting shipments of lethal injection drugs to the US, and states — which have now seen a series of botched executions — have turned to domestic pharmacists to make up the difference. But there may be a hitch in that plan, as a leading pharmacists association is now discouraging its members from providing drugs used in executions. The pharmacists’ decision places the association on the side of the American Medical Association, which, like other medical groups, discourages physicians from participating in executions. The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists took on a similar policy last week.

Acid, Passion, and Dried Blood: Photos from Murder Scenes in Turn-of-the-Century Paris – Even though it was invented in 1839 by Louis Daguerre, modern photography was only made available to French police investigators in the 1870s, and it wasn’t until 1887 that criminologist Alphonse Bertillon introduced the method to criminal identification practices. Thanks to his foresight,the photographic archive of the Paris Police Prefecture is now one of the richest in the world—a collection of millions of images that date back to the beginning of the 19th century.

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This scene shows the methodology used to photograph a cadaver before an autopsy. Photos courtesy of the Prefecture of Police of Paris.

Teens hit with child porn charges after tweeting their group-sex video – Four suburban Illinois teenagers were being held Tuesday on child pornography charges for allegedly producing a group-sex video of themselves and posting it to Twitter. The youths, whose names were not released because of their age, include a 15-year-old girl and boys 14, 15, and 16. They were arrested Friday and charged with distributing child pornography online. “The child pornography offense that was charged is in place for a reason, because we don’t want to accept that type of behavior as a society. So I think it’s making a strong statement, and I think it’s important to do so to send the message to others: that kids shouldn’t be involved in this type of behavior, and hopefully this will serve as a deterrent,” Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said.

GoPro camera patent a dead ringer for the Polaroid Cube – Wait a second, those of you familiar with the Polaroid Cube might be saying, isn’t that the miniature shooter we know so well? Not really, says GoPro, this is a new camera with new abilities – it just… maybe looks… similar. Not similar enough to warrant a mass breakdown, of course – and probably not similar enough to sue. But similar enough that we’re going to give a long hard look and play with this device if and when it’s released to the mass market.

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Silicon Valley’s Attack on Anti-Gay Laws Is a Watershed Moment for Tech Activism – Indiana’s new “religious freedom” law has ignited a national firestorm of protest—and the tech industry is leading the fight. The new law, which critics say opens the door to discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people, has prompted many leading tech companies to engage in corporate activism on social issues with a newly emboldened intensity, according to LGBT advocates. “The tech industry’s opposition to this bill is unprecedented,” said Fred Sainz, vice president at Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT advocacy group. “Never before have so many tech firms spoken out so loudly against such discriminatory actions.”

Something to think about:

“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”

–     Thomas Henry Huxley

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows Firewall Control – Windows Firewall Control is a nifty little application which extends the functionality of the Windows Firewall and provides quick access to the most frequent options of Windows Firewall. It runs in the system tray and allows user to control the native firewall easily without having to waste time by navigating to the specific part of the firewall. This is the best tool to manage the native firewall from Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Features:

Intuitive and easy accessible interface in the system tray.

Full support with standard user accounts. Elevated privileges are required only at installation.

Create temporary rules which are automatically deleted when they expire or on program restart.

Disable the ability of other programs to add Windows Firewall rules.

Multiple and easier ways of creating new rules in Windows Firewall.

Full support of creating, modifying and deleting Window Firewall rules.

Lock feature which can disable the access to the settings of the program and Windows Firewall.

Shell integration into the right click context menu of the executable files.

Search for invalid rules with the possibility to delete them.

Search for executable files through folders and create new rules in seconds.

View recently blocked connections and create new rules from the logs: inbound and outbound.

Choose if you want the program to start at user logon.

Import and export the settings of the program.

Protection to unauthorized uninstallation.

Possibility to restore previous settings at uninstallation.

And many more. Just try it out.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Massive Police Database of Information on Black Torontonians Should Be Destroyed – The police say the disproportionate cataloguing of blacks was unintentional, yet they’d like to keep all the detailed information they’ve collected throughout the process on our whereabouts, our addresses, our movements, our relationships—just in case.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 31, 2015

World Backup Day – is your data safe enough?  The essential guide to HomePlug Ethernet adapters;  19 Ways the Internet of Things Changes Everything;  Free up space on your SSD or hard drive;  Top 7 second-screen apps for Baseball;  Interactive chart helps you compare 150 3D printers;  The 10 Best Free Apps for Travel Junkies;  IBM Launches Major Internet Of Things Offensive;  $60 DIY car hacking device;  Fear the Walking Dead: watch the first trailer;  The 5 Best iPhone Games of the Month;  California biohackers create night vision eye drops;  7 PowerPoint text effects that add sizzle;  Power your devices with the sun: 11 great solar chargers;  CrystalDiskInfo (free);  Windows 10’s new browser, is now available for testing;  NSA considered ending phone surveillance program.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

World Backup Day – is your data safe enough? – 31 March is World Backup Day, a chance for us all to avoid being April Fools by making sure we have secure backups of all our most important data. On last year’s Backup Day, we provided a rundown of the most basic and important steps you can take to ensure your files can be retrieved in the event of a disaster.

19 Ways the Internet of Things Changes Everything – By 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) will be everywhere, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a device that’s not connected to the Web in some way. The possibilities are endless with the IoT: from health trackers and cars to home audio systems and smoke alarms. Combine that with an IFTTT (If This Then That) command and you have the recipe for a truly Web-connected life. While privacy advocates have concerns about the IoT, about 83 percent of the 1,606 experts surveyed by Pew said that the trend will be beneficial in the long run.

10 kits to get you started on the Internet of Things and hardware hacking – Kits designed to help you get started on making your own gadgets without getting bogged down in technical detail.

The essential guide to HomePlug Ethernet adapters (including 7 hands-on reviews) – HomePlug Ethernet adapters that use your home’s electrical wiring are great supplements to Wi-Fi networks. We sort through all the iterations and review the top seven models.

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Free up space on your SSD or hard drive – Your hard drive or (more likely) SSD is running out of space. Here are a few tricks for clearing out the garbage.

The top 7 second-screen apps for supplementing your Major League Baseball experience – These days, apps running on a second screen—a smartphone or tablet—are becoming as integral to watching the game as cold beer and peanuts. We’ve rounded up seven of the best second-screen apps that belong on your smartphone or tablet this baseball season. Download and install one or more before Opening Day on Sunday to make sure you’re game ready when the ump yells “play ball!”

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If you don’t use anything else this season, be sure to install at least the free Lite version of MLB at Bat.

Google Drive now backs up photos, videos automatically – Many of us have photos and video spread all over the web and across devices. Depending on how you’ve got your cloud storage set up, it’s not likely you’ve got all your media in one centralized location. Today, Google is taking steps to solve that for us. In Drive, you’ll soon see a new “Google Photos” menu option, which brings all your photo and video storage to a more convenient location. This move was rumored earlier this month, though it’s not exactly what sources claimed Google may end up doing.

7 PowerPoint text effects that add sizzle to slides – Here’s one more secret to help your PowerPoint slides sell. You always need good, well-written content, engaging graphics, and chic animations. Now, add some flashy text to that mix—judiciously—to give your ideas more sizzle. Although not really classified as effects, the Text and Outline Fill provide several options such as Solid colors, Gradients, Pictures or Textures, and Patterns to get you started.

Gmail for Android gets a unified inbox view – The Official Gmail Blog just announced that, starting today, an “All Inboxes” option will show up in the Gmail for Android navigation drawer (presumably, this requires an app update). The new option will display all your incoming mail from all your accounts in a single list.

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Interactive chart helps you compare 150 3D printers before buying – 3D printers have been available to consumers for a number of years, but your options were severely limited. As the price of the technology comes down and more applications are devised, the selection of printers has exploded. There are plenty of factors that go into making a 3D printer right for your needs, and this super-neat 3D printer comparison chart can help you find the perfect one.

Project Spartan, Windows 10’s new browser, is now available for testing – We got our first look at Project Spartan at Microsoft’s Windows 10 event in January. The browser runs on a brand new rendering engine aimed at speeding up performance, while offering new, sharing-centric functionality. The most dramatic of these changes is support for inking: you’ll be able to write or type directly on a web page, and share your annotations via email, through social networks, or by clipping them directly to OneNote.

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The 10 Best Free Apps for Travel Junkies – Odds are you use no more than two travel apps to get from point A to point B, and that’s fine — surveys show you’re not alone. But consider for a moment these 10 travel apps, which can shave time and money off your next journey and help you sniff out a few hidden gems to boot. They’re all free and just one download away from making your next trip smooth sailing.

Power your devices with the sun: 11 great solar chargers – It’s spring and the sun is finally shining, so use its rays to power your smartphone or tablet. Here are 11 affordable solar chargers.

New ARM-powered chip aims for battery life measured in decades – Atmel, the San Jose-based microcontroller maker, today released samples of a new type of ultra-low power, ARM based microcontroller that could radically extend the battery life of small low-power intelligent devices. The new SAM L21 32-bit ARM family of microcontroller (MCUs) consume less than 35 microamps of power per megahertz of processing speed while active, and less than 200 nanoamps of power overall when in deep sleep mode—with varying states in between. The chip is so low power that it can be powered off energy capture from the body, as Andreas Eieland, Atmel’s Director of Product Marketing for low-power products, demonstrated at CES earlier this year.

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Apple Stores now accept non-Apple device trade-ins – Trading in an Android phone for credit towards an iPhone is now a reality. If you walk into an Apple Store and hand them an Android, Windows, or BlackBerry phone, there’s a good chance they’ll offer you some sort of trade-in credit towards an iPhone. In conjunction with Brightstar, who runs their iOS trade-in program already, Apple stores now take non-Apple smartphones for Apple Store credit. The new program starts today in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, and France.

Security:

$60 DIY car hacking device is an inexpensive and easy way to hack cars – At the Black Hat Asia security conference, former Tesla intern and embedded systems developer Eric Evenchick released open source Python-based CANard software and CANtact hardware designs that will allow anyone to hack their connected cars.

Macro-based malware strikes again: How to keep your networks safe – Bad guys have regained interest in macro-based malware, reports Microsoft and Trend Micro. Learn why vigilance is key to combatting it.

Malwarebytes: Adult site Xtube compromised, serving exploits – Our systems have detected infections coming from popular adult site Xtube. This attack does not use malicious ads (malvertising) to compromise users. Instead, it injects a malicious snippet of code directly into Xtube itself.

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Pointing up   Tip – if you’re not yet running Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free, check it out here.

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Here’s a shot of it running in my system tray.

GitHub Continues To Face Evolving DDoS Attack – Online code repository GitHub continues to face a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Monday, which the company reported is the largest attack in GitHub.com’s history. The attack began on Thursday and still continues, according to GitHub’s status page and Twitter accounts, though the company says now that all its systems are reporting at 100%. However, the attackers continue to evolve their methodology as the barrage continues, requiring GitHub to remain on “high alert,” it says.

Company News:

Google likely to prevail against Mississippi Attorney General’s enormous subpoena, court says – A federal court in Mississippi is convinced so far that Google will prevail against the state’s attorney general in a lawsuit over an allegedly burdensome and over-broad subpoena. Google filed the suit a week after The Verge published a report tying Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to a secret Hollywood campaign to fight Google, pinning blame on it for piracy. Hood had handed Google a 79-page-long subpoena requesting a wealth of information and interviews, which Google is now fighting back against on grounds that it violates its First and Fourth Amendment rights.

IBM Launches Major Internet Of Things Offensive – The intent of the new initiative is to put IBM at the forefront of the Internet of Things and provide a common platform on top of which customers can build useful applications to take advantage of all that data. IBM suggests that partnerships like the one with The Weather Company and the one announced last year with Twitter are the cornerstones of a strategy to put them on the cutting edge of a burgeoning technology. They are not alone in this endeavor, however. GE has its own Internet of Things platform aimed at the industrial internet, called Predix. The two giants are battling it out for the hearts and minds of developers.

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Amazon takes its delivery drone testing to Canada – Amazon is dreaming of a world where its drones deliver products, and the FAA is publicly cringing at the prospect. The FAA did get around to granting Amazon an element of permission for testing its drones, but it was a matter of too little too late. Amazon isn’t waiting for the FAA to speed things up, and has instead simply crossed the border into Canada, where it is testing its delivery drones without the harsh restrictions imposed by the US government. The Guardian reports that Amazon is now working in British Columbia on its Prime Delivery Drones, where a variety of software engineers, roboticists, aeronautics experts, and more compose the team. The exact location of the testing site is being kept a close secret, and it follows the snail-slow approach to drone technology that US government is taking.

The Senate wants to know if the White House protected Google from the FTC – The fallout from a leaked trove of FTC documents on Google continues. A Senate panel says it has some questions for the FTC and White House after the documents revealed how Google used its power to strong-arm other companies, yet still made its way out of an anti-trust investigation relatively unscathed. Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee — chairman of the Senate Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee — says his office will examine both how the documents were released and whether the White House had an inappropriate role in the investigation, the National Journal reports.

Games and Entertainment:

The 5 Best iPhone Games of the Month – Every week, TIME rounds up our favorite iPhone games of the past few days. Here are the best of the best for March, from mind-straining puzzle games to mad-dash runners.

Spotify-Backed PlayStation Music Launches on PS3, PS4 – Sony’s PlayStation Music platform—the Music Unlimited replacement unveiled in January—launched today on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. With exclusive partner Spotify, PlayStation Music offers more than 30 million songs and 1.5 billion playlists, making it easy for console owners to soundtrack their gaming sessions. Using the Spotify Connect feature on the official Android and iOS music app, users can select a playlist (including special gaming catalogues), skip songs, adjust the volume, and more via a smartphone or tablet, without interrupting the immersive game experience.

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Fear the Walking Dead: watch the first trailer – If you watched The Walking Dead’s season 5 finale last night (fret not, there are no spoilers here), you were among the first round of people to see the series sequel’s very first trailer. It aired halfway through the episode, and during its brief time lent a glimpse into the zombie virus’s origins…and in doing so, it suggested that we might finally learn more about how the outbreak took place. The sequel, as we’ve previously noted, is called Fear the Walking Dead, and it’ll be making its debut this summer, bringing us closer to having year-round Walking Dead entertainment.

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Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service relaunching with ‘new direction’ – After a dust-up that saw minority shareholders attempt to block Jay-Z’s acquisition of Aspiro, things are moving forward. In the bid, Jay-Z acquired hi-definition streaming service Tidal, which seems to be the real goal in acquiring Aspiro. Today, Tidal is being relaunched, and is allegedly going to start challenging others like Spotify or iTunes for new releases from big-name artists. If successful, expect the new Beyonce album to hit Tidal unannounced instead of iTunes.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Doctors kill golden staph using a 1,000-year-old remedy – The key to killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — also known as MRSA or golden staph — may not be new-fangled treatments after all, but a treatment for an infected eyelash follicle found in a 1,000-year-old book. The MRSA “superbug” is notoriously difficult to treat. Over the years, it developed resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics, which include common treatments like penicillin and its derivatives, cephalosporins, monobactams and carbapenems. It’s also a particular problem in hospitals and nursing homes, where a high percentage of the population of which have open wounds and weakened immune systems.

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Two federal agents have been charged with stealing money from the Silk Road – Two Federal agents are facing charges of stealing money from the Silk Road, an online drug marketplace that was taken down by federal warrant more than a year ago. According to a newly unsealed affidavit, DEA Agent Carl Mark Force was actively selling Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht information about the government’s investigaton, at one point receiving $100,000 in bitcoin in exchange for a name that Mt Gox founder Mark Karpeles had given investigators as DPR’s true identity. (Karpeles maintains that he never knew DPR’s identity.) Force also used the DEA’s legal powers to freeze a bitcoin account on a service called CoinMKT and direct nearly $300,000 into his own account.

Destroy your tablet with a Selfie Stick attachment – If the normal Selfie Stick wasn’t enough to get you pumped up about taking a picture of yourself near a crash site, the Tablet Attachment must be. This device attaches to a standard selfie stick monopod pole and gives you room to grip your tablet. You can hook on to an iPad and hold it aloft, taking a front-facing selfie photo from all sorts of different angles. Have we reached Peak Selfie Stick? Between this and that New York Post cover – yes, yes we have.

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Watch this drone shepherd round up its flock on an Irish farm – Although CNET predicts that farming will be the No. 1 industry transformed by drones in the coming years, I think that’s talking about evaluating crop health and the like, not finding border collie replacements. But a new video shows that “drone shepherding” is certainly possible.

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Video Shows Border Patrol Agent Firing Taser Into Car Before It Explodes, Burning Driver Alive – Video of the incident, which occurred in March 2012 in Pine Valley, California, was just made public as part of a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the family of the 25-year-old victim, Alex Martin, who was killed in the incident. The footage, caught by a dashboard camera in the officers’ car and presented as evidence in the lawsuit, shows the plain clothes officers running up to Martin’s car after pulling it over, flashing a light into the vehicle, and trying to force open the door, before breaking through the window and firing the Taser — which immediately sets off an explosion. The video then shows the officers moving away from the fire without attempting to help Martin, as he burns to death. In the video, the officers don’t appear to identify themselves to Martin when they approach the car — nor do they attempt to extinguish the fire. “All three of those cars had large fire extinguishers in them and standard equipment,” Iredale said. “Not one of these agents ever even tried to spray any of the fire extinguisher solution on that car.”

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California biohackers create night vision eye drops – You can read the full report, but basically the experiment was a fascinating success. After applying the drops, scientists were able to clearly and instantly recognize people over 160 feet away in pitch blackness standing in the woods. Their eyes absorbed so much more light they even had to wear sunglasses indoors despite the risk of looking like incognito celebrities. The effects weren’t permanent, though. 50 microliters of the solution wore off after a few hours, and the scientists plan to do plenty more research on the long-term effects of Ce6 before considering the future of night vision in a bottle.

Something to think about:

We’re keeping a list. 

We’re checking it twice. 

We’re gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. 

1984 is comin’ to town…

A Christmas Card fromBarak Obama (U.S.), David Cameron (U.K.), Stephen Harper (Canada), Tony Abbott (Australia), John Key (New Zealand).

Today’s Free Downloads:

CrystalDiskInfo – CrystalDiskInfo is a HDD health monitoring utility. It displays basic HDD information, monitors S.M.A.R.T. values and disk temperature.

Features:

Show S.M.A.R.T Information

Show HDD Information

Change dialog design

Internationalization (i18n)

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Unreal Commander – Unreal Commander is a freeware file manager for Windows.

Features:

Two-panel interface

UNICODE support

Extended search of files

Multi-rename tool

Synchronization of directories

Support of archives ZIP, RAR, ACE, CAB, JAR, TAR, LHA, GZ, TGZ, ARJ

Built-in FTP client

Thumbnail mode

Folder tabs

Support of WLX/WCX/WDX plugins

Build-in viewer and quick view function

Network support

Drag and Drop Support

History and Hotlist functions

Copy/move/delete files background mode support

Deleting files with WIPE

Background pictures support

Visual styles: color categories of files, fonts for all interface elements

and more.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Data and Goliath, book review: A handbook for the information age – Modern lives leave a digital trail, and most people are unaware of just who is auditing it. Security expert Bruce Schneier examines how governments, corporations, individuals and society as a whole can deliver a better balance between security and privacy.

Governor ups license plate data retention to 60 days from seven: “Major step forward for personal freedom and liberty” thwarted by governor – Despite near-unanimous support in both houses of the Virginia state legislature, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) recently amended a significant license plate reader data retention bill, sending it back to state lawmakers. Had the bill passed, it would have imposed a limit of just seven days on keeping such data absent an ongoing criminal investigation.

As put forward by the governor last Friday, the new amendments crucially change that retention period from seven days to 60 days, and modify language that was designed to be a hedge against future surveillance technologies to be restricted to license plate readers specifically.

The Washington Post quoted Brian Moran, the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, as saying on Friday that he had “been informed by numerous law enforcement agencies that license plate readers result in salient and compelling information. The governor’s amendment…represents a significant compromise by law enforcement. The governor believes 60 days is a more appropriate period of time and reaches a compromise with the legislature that’s reasonable.”

Intercept Reporter Files Suit Against Ferguson Police – An Intercept reporter is suing the St. Louis County Police Department after he was shot with rubber bullets and arrested while reporting on protests in the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown last August.

The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux is joined in the civil rights suit, filed today in federal court in the Eastern District of Missouri, by three German journalists who were also arrested. They allege that the police department, St. Louis County, and 20 unidentified officers violated their First Amendment rights of freedom of press and freedom of speech, used excessive force against them, and arrested them without probable cause. (The complaint is embedded below.)

NSA considered ending phone surveillance program — report – The National Security Agency reportedly contemplated curtailing its program to collect the phone records of America citizens even before whistleblower Edward Snowden spilled the beans.

The NSA, which has been intensely criticized for its program of vacuuming up the phone call records of US citizens, has publicly defended the practice as a necessary measure to combat terrorism. But months before the surveillance came to light in 2013 with the release of documents leaked by Snowden, a proposal to end the program was being discussed among top managers of the agency, current and former intelligence officials told the Associated Press.

NSA insiders who called for the program to be killed cited several factors, according to the AP’s sources. The cost of capturing and storing records from every domestic landline was growing higher. The system wasn’t grabbing the records of mobile phone calls. The program was not integral to discovering terrorist plots. And critics inside the agency were concerned about the reaction should the program ever become public knowledge.

The effort to halt the program never got beyond the discussion stage.

EFF questions US government’s software flaw disclosure policy – It’s not clear if the U.S. government is living up to its promise to disclose serious software flaws to technology companies, a policy it put in place five years ago, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The digital watchdog said on Monday it received a handful of heavily redacted documents from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which it sued last July after it and the National Security Agency moved too slowly on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Last year, the EFF sought documents related to the U.S. government’s efforts to beef up its Vulnerability Equities Process (VEP), a framework for notifying companies about zero-day vulnerabilities.

Those type of software flaws are considered the most dangerous since attackers are actively using the flaws to compromise computers, and there are no patches ready.

But there has been concern that the U.S. government may hold onto that kind of information for too long, putting at risk organizations that it is supposed to protect from foreign adversaries who may discover the vulnerabilities on their own.

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