Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 10, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About The Apple Watch;  iOS 8.2 rolls out bringing improvements and compulsory Apple Watch app;  The Apple Watch Compared To The Competition;  Minecraft update reduces security risks on PCs;  Google Rolls Out Android 5.1 Lollipop;  Samsung opens Milk Music to everyone via the Web;  What happens when a hard drive crashes;  Xiaomi solves Mi 4 malware dustup: device was counterfeit;  Roku vs. Apple TV vs. Chromecast vs. Amazon Fire TV;  New Xbox One bundle includes ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ at no extra cost;  Apple TV price cut to $69, £59 or AU$109;  Apple locks HBO Now for ‘Game of Thrones';  Apple ResearchKit Turns iPhones Into Medical Diagnostic Devices;  The Best iPhone Games of the Week;  Heavy smartphone use linked to lazy thinkers, low intelligence.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Everything You Need To Know About The Apple Watch – Apple has finally revealed all regarding the Apple Watch, the wrist-based wearable it first introduced last September. Many of the Apple Watch’s particulars were already known, but here, for the first time, is a comprehensive look at what will no doubt become the world’s most popular smartwatch. Pre-orders will begin on April 10th. The device will start shipping on April 24th, and cost anywhere from $349 to $10,000 depending on style.


9 facts you didn’t know you wanted to know about Apple Watch – According to Apple, it’s “everything a watch should be,” including very expensive and owned by models!

The Apple Watch Compared To The Competition – After nearly half a year of suspense, we finally have all the details about the Apple Watch, including when it’ll launch, how much it’ll cost, and what the user experience will be like. That means we can take a step back and look at how it compares to the rest of the smartwatch market. To make this a fair fight, we’ve taken the Apple Watch and put it up against premium smartwatches — other devices made from expensive-feeling metal and glass, with apps that communicate with those on your phone to keep you from spending all of your time staring at your iOS- or Android-powered pocket slate.


Use This Ingenious Trick to Choose the Right Apple Watch Size – It basically costs a dollar to tell which one’s right for you.

iOS 8.2 rolls out bringing improvements and compulsory Apple Watch app – The iOS update, which is detailed below, also brought with it the Apple Watch app to iPhone which cannot be deleted, the app joins an array of compulsory Apple apps that can’t be deleted including Passbook, Tips, Stocks, Weather, Calendar, Clock, FaceTime, Contacts, iBooks, Compass, Maps, Health, Newsstand, Photos, Camera, Notes, Messages, Voice Memos, the iTunes Store, and the App Store.

Google Rolls Out Android 5.1 Lollipop – Google on Monday rolled out some “tasty additions” to its Android Lollipop mobile operating system, adding some new capabilities like multiple-SIM card support. Android 5.1 “improves stability and performance” in phones and tablets running Lollipop, Google Android Platform executive Dave Burke wrote in a blog post. In addition to supporting multiple SIM slots in phones, the 5.1 update adds Device Protection to phones and slates running Lollipop, meaning that “your lost or stolen device will remain locked until you sign in with your Google account—even if someone resets your device to factory settings,” Burke said.

Let Authy handle your Android two-step authentication – For those sites and services that support two-step authentication, having a single tool to handle that would be a boon for many users. That’s exactly what Authy is. With this easy-to-use app, you can enable two-step verification on any service that takes advantage of Google authentication (such as Gmail, Dropbox, Lastpass, and Amazon Web Services). So, if you’re hoping for an easier means for two-step authentication, let’s install Authy and see if it meets that need.


Rocketbook digitizes notes, then erases them in the microwave - Try as we might, some of us cannot substitute writing on paper with writing on a display, no matter how sensitive the device and precise the stylus. Still, digital copies are the best way to store notes, and notebooks that digitize what one writes have been the long-running compromise, giving the best of both worlds. Rocketbook is one example of this, but with a twist: when writing with a specific pen, one can microwave the notebook for 30 seconds to erase the papers, making the same paper notebook reusable.


What happens when a hard drive crashes – We’re all terrified of the day when our hard drive just stops working. Here’s what goes on inside the drive when disaster strikes.

Apple ResearchKit Turns iPhones Into Medical Diagnostic Devices – ResearchKit lets people take tests like saying “ahhh” to detect vocal variations, walking in a line, or tapping in rhythm to test for Parkinson’s Disease. Users will decide how to share their data and Apple won’t see it. And to advance its evolution, ResearchKit will be open source. ResearchKit will be available next month, and the first five tests built with it will become available today. They help people participate in tests for Parkinson’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and breast cancer.


Samsung opens Milk Music to everyone via the Web – Samsung is bringing its free Milk Music streaming radio service to more users via the Web as promised in January. Until now, Milk Music has been available as an app only for Samsung’s smartphones, tablets, TVs and smartwatches, but starting Monday it will be available to anyone with a browser. Users will need to create an account on Samsung’s Web site to access the service .

Roku vs. Apple TV vs. Chromecast vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which streamer should you buy? – Which has the most apps? Which has the coolest features? Which one is the best? The most popular media streamers all have their merits, so we’ll help you decide which box is right for you.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Facebook to close FriendFeed in April – A flash from the past is being shut down, Facebook has announced. It’s the now-dated social network FriendFeed, and the number of people still using it are dropping quickly, leaving little incentive for Facebook — which bought it more than a handful of years ago — to keep it around. Those still using the service will have a few more weeks to get any of their data off of it and say their final farewell, with the closure being scheduled to take place on April 9.

Visual Studio 2013 Update 5 CTP 3 Released – Microsoft has released a new Community Technical Preview of Visual Studio 2013 Update 5 and if you want to download the bits, you can find the link after the jump.


Xiaomi solves Mi 4 malware dustup: device was counterfeit – Yesterday, news surfaced that the Xiaomi Mi 4 came preloaded with malware. While we can handle a little bloatware, malware is just — no. Even more subversive than straight-up malware, some of the apps installed were disguised as Google apps. Security company Bluebox, who released the report, even suggested Xiaomi handed their handset off to a third party to get the malware installed, which is about as low as you can get. Now, Xiaomi has their say, and comfortably quashed any thought of malware on their devices.

Minecraft update reduces security risks on PCs – Minecraft is a very popular video game that lets players build just about anything they can dream up using blocks of all sorts of materials. What players can build in the game is only limited by their imagination and patience placing blocks. One of the drawbacks of Minecraft in the past was a potential to leave PCs with security vulnerabilities. These security issues were due to the Java run-anywhere code base that the game required. That particular Java code left PCs vulnerable to security exploits and adware. Those security vulnerabilities have now been reduced thanks to an update that landed over the last few weeks.


A few small steps for man, a giant leap for online security – The online world is vast. Just follow these straightforward tips, which will make it harder for hackers, and keep you secure.

Cyberespionage arsenal could be tied to French intelligence – A collection of computer Trojans that have been used since 2009 to steal data from government agencies, military contractors, media organizations and other companies is tied to cyberespionage malware possibly created by French intelligence agencies. Researchers from several antivirus companies have found links between the malware programs, which they call Babar, Bunny, Casper, Dino, NBot and Tafacalou.

Company News:

Microsoft asks U.S. court to ban Kyocera’s Android phones – Microsoft has asked a court in Seattle to ban Kyocera’s DuraForce, Hydro and Brigadier lines of cellular phones in the U.S., alleging that they infringed seven Microsoft patents. The software giant has in its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington charged that some Kyocera phone features that come from its use of the Android operating system infringe its patents.

Google hires Twitter’s data guy – Google just hired one of the most important people at Twitter to join their team as Trends Data Editor. Not that Simon Rogers is going to make or break a company like Twitter, but the ability to do what he did for Twitter – and what he’ll be doing for Google – is really, really is an important role. Especially for the public, seeing how events explode in a virtual way, seeing that sort of thing clearly, and easily – that’s what Rogers does.

Intel Unveils First 14nm, Xeon D SoCs – Intel on Monday introduced its 14-nanometer Xeon D family of microserver processors, bringing System-on-a-Chip (SoC) capabilities to the company’s Xeon line of datacenter products for the first time. The first Xeon D products are the quad-core Xeon Processor D-1520, priced at $199, and the eight-core Xeon Processor D-1540, priced at $581. Both new SoCs are available today. Intel said Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Quanta Cloud Technology, Sugon, and Supermicro are among the companies designing microservers based on Xeon D.

Tesla’s China troubles lead to job cuts – Tesla has lofty goals, and it has grown its workforce steadily over the last year or so. Still, the Chinese market has proven problematic for the auto maker, and now those troubles are leading to job cuts. That doesn’t mean Tesla is giving up on the market — to the contrary, this “restructuring” is taking place so that the company can continue to operate there, at least according to the auto maker. It isn’t clear how many jobs are on the chopping block at this point.

Uber, Lyft, Sidecar asked by US lawmakers to use fingerprint checks of drivers – Eight members of the U.S. Congress have asked Uber Technologies, Lyft and Sidecar Technologies to adopt fingerprint-based background checks of their drivers, describing the procedure as “more comprehensive and harder to fake.” The ride-hailing companies have come under increasing pressure to better vet their drivers, particularly in the wake of reports of sexual and other assaults by drivers in some cities.

Games and Entertainment:

Apple TV price cut to $69, £59 or AU$109 – At the Apple Watch event today Tim Cook announced a price cut on the Apple TV box, bringing it down to $69 in the US and £59 in the UK. In Australia it stays the same at AU$109, due to a downturn in the Australian dollar. Since its debut in March 2012 the streaming box has sold for $99 in the US.

Apple locks HBO Now for ‘Game of Thrones’ – Attention cord-cutting “Game of Thrones” fans: If you want to watch the new season of the hit fantasy while it’s new, you better be an Apple fan too. Apple’s exclusive launch of HBO Now will last through the entirety of the new fifth season of “Game of Thrones.” That exclusive lasts three months, HBO said, and because HBO Now’s launch in early April precedes the season premiere April 12, a standard 10-episode season will run its course before owners of Roku, Google’s Chromecast or Amazon’s Fire TV will get a shot at subscribing.

New Xbox One bundle includes ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ at no extra cost – Halo fans who have yet to buy an Xbox One now have a compelling reason to do so: Microsoft is now offering “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” for free as part of a $350 bundle with its newest gaming console. According to a post on the company’s official Xbox Wire website, “The Master Chief Collection” will be available for free with the Xbox One bundle in the U.S. and “most regions where Xbox One is available.” The game will come as a digital download to consumers purchasing the bundle, though no additional details were provided.


GTA Online Heists update details leaked online – GTA Online Heists is a new mode which will officially launch tomorrow as a free update. However, some users have already posted screenshots with several details indicating that they prematurely received the update overnight. These users claim that the download size is a hefty 4.8 GB on the Xbox One but is relatively smaller on the Xbox 360 weighing in at 1.2 GB. The long-awaited add-on includes five new heist missions along with an assortment of weapons, armored cars, costumes and masks. Nine achievements worth 250 gamerscore have also been added, amounting to a total of 1250 gamerscore. The missions include beating a heist without taking damage and spending in-game money on the new cars.


ScreenStick is a stick-on joystick for tablets – Mobile gaming has become a sophisticated hobby over the years, and anyone who enjoys it quickly grows tired of on-screen digital controls. The solution is a mobile gamepad, of which there is no shortage, but they all come with the same design: a clip in which a smartphone or tablet is slid, positioning it above a standard gaming controller. ScreenStick is different, putting physical joysticks on your device’s display using suction cups for a more natural feel when holding the device.


Xbox Live for Windows 10 will be free for online multiplayer gaming – Microsoft is finally bringing Xbox Live to Windows PCs and phones in a meaningful way with Windows 10, and with it comes the possibility of online multiplayer gaming using Microsoft’s gaming service. While Microsoft currently charges Xbox One owners to use online multiplayer gaming, the software maker has no plans to extend that to Windows 10 PCs or phones. Microsoft’s Larry Hryb, otherwise known as Major Nelson, confirmed the plans on Twitter last week in response to concerns over Xbox Live on Windows 10. “Not charging,” says Hryb, “Xbox Live Gold will not be required for online multiplayer gaming using our service on Windows 10 PCs and Phones.”

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

This is the first Apple Watch TV commercial – Apple is starting to air its first TV commercial for the Apple Watch. It features the usual array of floating products set to white backgrounds and mesmerizing music. There’s no voiceover here, you just see “the watch is coming” and the April 24th launch date alongside various features like fitness, mapping, timing, flight tracking, weather, Passbook, and even messaging or calls. The focus is very much on the changing bands throughout the 60-second ad, with a lot of different styles displayed. It’s bold, typically Apple, and you’ll likely see it a lot of times on your TV over the next few weeks.


The Apple Watch Isn’t A Watch, It’s An iPhone Sales Engine – The Apple Watch is not a watch in the same way that the iPhone was not a phone — or at least not what we knew to be a phone at the time. “Watch” is not the device’s primary functionality, just as “phone” was not the iPhone’s primary functionality. iPhone was an honest-to-god computer in your pocket — and Apple Watch is an honest-to-god iPhone on your wrist. But there’s a big caveat: It’s an iPhone on your wrist that requires yet another iPhone in your pocket.

Samsung made a $30,000 high-tech dog house – Apple’s engineers are hard at work on an ultramodern car. Samsung’s? They just finished making a dog house. A really, really fancy dog house. Samsung is sponsoring the world’s biggest dog show, Crufts, this year. They look a bit odd next to a bunch of pet food and pet insurance companies, what with them not really being in a pet-related business. It’s one of the few things they’re not active in, really. To fit in with the likes of Purina and Orijen, Samsung engineers and designers whipped up this insanely modern dog house. It’s packed with technology to pamper the savvy pooch in your life. All that gadgetry comes at a price, of course: roughly $30,000.


We have no self-control: America’s most powerful men explain why they’re scared of email – As two of Congress’ most senior representatives, Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain sit on many of the most important committees overseeing the business of the United States government. Which has left observers all the more confused and disturbed that they seem to be doing so without use of arguably the most pervasive and influential written communication application in the world. The solution to vast intrusions into privacy, in the senior lawmakers’ eyes, is seemingly not to protect citizens from those carrying out surveillance but to simply opt out of using technology altogether. And that is far more disturbing that the use of personal email by a former secretary of state.

Solar airplane soars to start first-ever round-the-world trip – The Solar Impulse 2 takes off from Abu Dhabi on the first leg of an attempted 20,000-mile circumnavigation of the globe — an unprecedented journey for a sun-powered craft.


Heavy smartphone use linked to lazy thinkers, low intelligence – The University of Waterloo has carried out a study of 660 people focusing on the cognitive style of participants combined with their smartphone habits. More specifically, they looked at the type of thinkers they are, ranging from very intuitive right through to very analytical. They also looked at verbal and numerical skills. The University stops short of claiming smartphones decrease intelligence, stating further research would be required for that. However, if you consider how many children carry a smartphone around today, it’s not hard to imagine how their ability to learn may be inhibited by the always available alternative brain in their pocket.

Pointing up    Lazy and stupid smartphone users – I don’t know much about. Ignorant, rude and crass smartphone users – I know lots about.

After taking phone giants’ money, these Republicans want to kill net neutrality – More than 30 members of Congress are rallying behind a bill that threatens the new rules introduced by the FCC.

Something to think about:

“Human rights do not stand in the way of security that is universal, durable and inclusive. Human rights are in fact the very key.”

-     Toronto Star

Today’s Free Downloads:

Auslogics Disk Defrag – Get the best performance out of your expensive hardware investments, improve your PC’s performance and stability.

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Auslogics Disk Defrag is designed for fast optimization of today’s modern hard disks. Get the maximum performance out of your expensive hardware investments. And it’s absolutely FREE.

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Besides causing slowdowns, fragmentation makes the hard drive disk heads move frequently when reading files which leads to freeze-ups and system crashes. It is important to keep your disks defragmented and optimized as much as possible.


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Useful disk fragmentation map and detailed fragmentation report


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Anti-terror bill a setback for human rights in Canada – Want to feel more secure? Bill C-51, now being examined by a parliamentary committee in three weeks of truncated hearings, aims to establish criminal offences that infringe free expression, unprecedented intrusive intelligence powers, breathtakingly vast definitions of security, unbridled sharing of information and stunning levels of secrecy; all while doing nothing to enhance review, oversight and accountability of Canada’s national security agencies.

The message is that human rights have to give way to keep terrorism at bay. The relationship between the two is seen as a zero-sum game. More safety means fewer rights. Stronger regard for rights leads to greater insecurity.

It is time to turn that around. Human rights do not stand in the way of security that is universal, durable and inclusive. Human rights are in fact the very key.

Schneier on Security: Attack Attribution and Cyber Conflict – The vigorous debate after the Sony Pictures breach pitted the Obama administration against many of us in the cybersecurity community who didn’t buy Washington’s claim that North Korea was the culprit.

What’s both amazing — and perhaps a bit frightening — about that dispute over who hacked Sony is that it happened in the first place.

But what it highlights is the fact that we’re living in a world where we can’t easily tell the difference between a couple of guys in a basement apartment and the North Korean government with an estimated $10 billion military budget. And that ambiguity has profound implications for how countries will conduct foreign policy in the Internet age.

Immediately After Launching Effort to Scuttle Iran Deal, Senator Tom Cotton to Meet with Defense Contractors – In an open letter organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., 47 Senate Republicans today warned the leaders of Iran that any nuclear deal reached with President Barack Obama could expire as soon as he leaves office.

Tomorrow, 24 hours later, Cotton will appear at an “Off the Record and strictly Non-Attribution” event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.

The NDIA is composed of executives from major military businesses such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms.

Cotton strongly advocates higher defense spending and a more aggressive foreign policy. As The New Republic’s David Ramsey noted, “Pick a topic — Syria, Iran, Russia, ISIS, drones, NSA snooping — and Cotton can be found at the hawkish outer edge of the debate…During his senate campaign, he told a tele-townhall that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels joining forces to attack Arkansas was an ‘urgent problem.’”

“Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., 47 Senate Republicans today warned the leaders of Iran that any nuclear deal reached with President Barack Obama could expire as soon as he leaves office.”

Pointing up   Each of the signatories to this letter should be arrested and charged with Treason. 

According to the U.S. legal code, the definition of treason is fairly specific: 

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 9, 2015

Why You Should Never Sign a Cell Phone Contract Again;  How to keep your connected home safe;  The top security apps of the year;  The Best Smartphones and Tablets of MWC;  Is Chrome OS right for you? A 3-question quiz to find out;  3 cool things about Gmail 4.0 for iOS;  How to run more than web apps from a Chromebook;  8 On-Demand Weed Delivery Apps;  Vivaldi Is Quickly Becoming The Alternative Browser To Beat;  5 apps for managing your wine cellar;  Six factors for finding a new web hosting provider;  UK Readies 25% ‘Google Tax’ On Tech Giants’ Diverted Profits;  U.K. Police Arrest 57 in Cybercrime Crackdown;  Blizzard Launches ‘Heroes of the Dorm’ Tourney;  21 Crazy GoPro Stunt Videos You Must Watch;  Can We Guess Your Age By How You Use The Internet?  1600 Windows Icons – Metro Style (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Inside the panopticon economy: The next internet revolution, privacy and you – Summary:The next evolution of the internet will embed sensors into nearly everything around us. Dealing with the privacy and security implications of that will be one of the biggest challenges of the next century.

Pointing up   I’ve been feeling sort of sliced, diced, sold and digested, this last while. Now I know why.    Sad smile

Why You Should Never Sign a Cell Phone Contract Again – Like rocket science and high school relationships, cell phone plans are complicated for a reason. Two-year contract or early-upgrade plan? Month-to-month or pay-as-you-go? Individual or shared data? Big carriers like AT&T and Verizon love it this way — they know most consumers won’t know a good plan from a bad one. When every choice is filled with exceptions, limitations and fine print, how can you even begin to compare your options? You’d be a fool to even try. Well, call us fools, because we sat down and did just that. In order to keep things straightforward, we made a few assumptions up front:

How to keep your connected home safe: 7 steps you can take to boost home security – The proliferation of smart devices, however, also opens the door to new dangers and threats. Even with something as simple as a smart light socket that you can control remotely with your phone, what makes that possible is the little computer in the switch that can talk to the Internet—which means that Internet users can talk back. What’s a homeowner to do? While it’s practically impossible to stop a determined professional hacker, there are steps you can take to at least make their task more difficult, and to discourage the simpler attacks. Think of these seven steps as the connected home equivalent of putting locks on your windows or stopping your newspaper delivery while you’re on vacation.


Independent labs have announced their awards for the top security apps of the year – What’s the best antivirus software, and how can you tell? When we review security software at, we do hands-on testing, looking at everything from user-friendliness to virus eradication, but we also look at test results from independent institutes like AV-Test and AV-Comparatives. These labs do not produce their own antivirus software and perform rigorous, objective tests on security suites from all major manufacturers. Here are the consumer security apps that recently won the labs’ seal of approval:

The Best Smartphones and Tablets of MWC – Barcelona is the mobile tech capital of the world, and Mobile World Congress has far surpassed CES as the preeminent venue for all the greatest mobile device releases. If there’s a new smartphone or tablet out there, it’s here on the show floor. We’ve been scouring the halls of the Fira Gran Via convention center, sifting through endless booths filled with studs and duds of the mobile world to bring you the cream of the crop.


Driver was on Facebook before crash that killed three, say cops – A Wisconsin woman’s phone is recovered months after a crash in which her daughter and two nieces, whom she was driving, were killed. She is being charged with homicide.

3 cool things about Gmail 4.0 for iOS – For any Gmail user who owns an iPhone or iPad, there’s a decision to be made: Use Apple’s stock Mail app, or switch to Google’s Gmail app? If you’ve been on the fence, this may swing the pendulum toward the latter: Gmail 4.0 for iOS brings three welcome new features to iPhones and iPads, most of them designed to help you work faster.

Is Chrome OS right for you? A 3-question quiz to find out – Google’s Chrome OS is one of the world’s most misunderstood computing platforms. Chromebooks are foundationally different from traditional PCs, after all — and consequently, there are a lot of misconceptions about how they work and what they can and cannot do. Whether it’s you or someone you know who’s curious, the following three questions should help shed some light on what the platform’s all about and for whom it makes sense.

How to run more than web apps from a Chromebook – If you use a Chromebook, you may still want to use software built for another operating system, such as Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux. Good news: you can, but you may need additional hardware — or a subscription to a service — to do so. Here are a few options.

Apple Watch apps designed to be used for a few seconds at a time, report says – App-makers are hard at work building apps for the Apple Watch in top-secret conditions that would make Maxwell Smart jealous, according to a new report. Behind those closed doors, Apple is offering guidelines on how Watch apps should work and suggesting that wearers will use the app for less than ten seconds at a time. According to sources speaking to Bloomberg, sample Watches are made available to developers in locked rooms with no Internet access at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California. Code created by the developers isn’t allowed to leave Apple.

Pinterest Releases First Year-Long Transparency Report – As you might expect, the U.S. government doesn’t care all that much about your pinned content. Or, to frame it another way, there just doesn’t seem to be all that much on Pinterest that necessitates investigation by U.S. law enforcement agencies. Pinterest has officially released its first-ever (full-year) transparency report, and the service just didn’t receive that that many legal requests throughout 2014. In total, it receive 39 requests from agencies within the United States, and a whopping two requests from international agencies (one Canadian and one Australian).

GNOME 2 is back: Ubuntu MATE is now an official flavor – Ubuntu MATE is now an official flavor of Ubuntu. Yes, that means Ubuntu is giving a stamp of endorsement to GNOME 2 once again. You don’t need to switch to Linux Mint—just install the Ubuntu MATE disc and get a desktop that works like it did before Ubuntu’s Unity and the GNOME Shell came along.


Pandora reveals ad-free day pass coming soon – When it comes to online music streaming service Pandora, there are two ways to listen: the typical ad-supported option which is free, and a paid subscription plan called Pandora One, which costs users $4.99 per month. But what about those times when you want to play some music for an extended period without the annoying ads, yet paying for a full month is just too much? At a recent investor day, the company revealed a new day pass option, said to be coming later this year, that aims to serve just such a user scenario.

The Evolution Of The Browser – The browser wars have always been cyclical, moving from periods of monoculture dominated by one or two browsers to periods of comparative competition characterized by multiple, strong, second-tier browsers and a growing list of niche browsers.  While Spartan and Vivaldi are the most widely written about new browsers, many additional, niche browsers have recently launched or are under development, including Torch (BitTorrent) Epic (privacy), Nitro (speed) and Slim (fast startup) and Lightspeed (minimalist, search-oriented). Then, there are the many browsers with large followings in China — 360 Safe for PC, Baidu, Sougou, UC Web and Cheetah.

Vivaldi Is Quickly Becoming The Alternative Browser To Beat – Opera’s former CEO Jón von Tetzchner launched the first preview of its new Chromium-based Vivaldi browser in January. Now in its second technical preview, which adds a boatload of new features, the browser is quickly shaping up to be a worthwhile alternative to Chrome, Firefox, Safari and IE — and especially for former Opera users.


An incredibly shrinking Firefox faces endangered species status – Just two weeks after Mozilla’s top Firefox executive said that rumors of its demise were “dead wrong,” the iconic browser dropped another three-tenths of a percentage point in analytics firm Net Applications’ tracking, ending February with 11.6%. That was Firefox’s lowest share since July 2006, when the browser had been in the market for less than two years.

Pocket vino: We review 5 apps for managing your wine cellar – Numerous wine cellar management apps are now available, but this is a market that’s still emerging and in flux. Growing pains abound, and many of these apps are still finding their feet. In fact, some of the veterans in this space have yet to build a reliable, worthwhile app for what ought to be a pretty simple task. Which app should you trust with managing some of your most prized possessions? We put five of the most noteworthy wine cellar management apps to the test to separate the gems from the plonk.

8 On-Demand Weed Delivery Apps – The fast-growing pot industry not only raked in $2.7 billion in sales this last year, it’s also produced quite a few ganja-based startups. It’s legal to light up a bowl for recreation or medical reasons in 23 of these 50 United States now and soon as there’s a growing industry, there are technological innovations to support it. We’ve counted at least 8 on-demand delivery apps out there that will bring medicinal grade weed varietals right to your door.

Photos: 10 must-have accessories for your 3D printer – If you have a desktop 3D printer, you need some accessories to keep it updated and working properly. Here are 10 things to keep in your toolkit.


Six factors for finding a new web hosting provider – Small business owners are often completely in the dark when it comes to choosing a hosting provider. This is a major decision for your business, so make sure to consider every option before making the call. Start by taking a hard look at these six key areas:


Xiaomi Mi 4 malware accusation prompts security controversy – Earlier this week, Bluebox, a data security company, released a findings report on their tests of the Xiaomi Mi 4 smartphone. Unfortunately for Xiaomi, their results were far from stellar. Not only did the security firm find malicious malware installed on the device, but some of it was even disguised to appear as Google apps. Even worse, they believe an unknown third party tampered with the Android-powered smartphone. Read on for more details about what they found, as well as Xiaomi’s official response to the report. Xiaomi has contacted SlashGear with an official statement, confirming an investigation is underway and suggesting that Bluebox was sold a counterfeit phone. In addition to publishing Xiaomi’s comment in full, below, we have updated our title to reflect the ongoing development of this story. Crapware Added to Mac OS X Java Installations – Spoiler: Don’t just blindly click through prompts when installing Java. While the integration of software into the Java installation program might not rise to the level of, say, a Lenovo Superfish incident, it’s still unfortunate to see Oracle doubling down on adware. For more, see How to Remove the Toolbar From Your Browser.

Silent Circle: We haven’t been served a single demand for data – The maker of encrypted phone and messaging products was caught in a mini-storm Saturday when reports suggested its warrant canary, a tool designed to alert the receipt of a warrant that comes with a gag order, was missing an explicit declaration that it had not been compromised by a government data demand.

Three foreigners charged with massive email breach in US – There is that saying about the long arm of the law and the places that it reaches. Considering how this latest cyber crime case practically covers three countries both near and far from the US, that might very well be applicable here. Several agencies of the US government made a joint announcement revealing some of the details that concerns two Vietnamese nationals and one Canadian who have been involved in one of the most massive case of email hacking and spam in the history of the US.

U.K. Police Arrest 57 in Cybercrime Crackdown – The U.K’s National Crime Agency on Friday announced it has arrested 57 suspected hackers as part of a cybercrime crackdown dubbed “strike week.” Working with partners in law enforcement, industry, and government, the agency carried out 25 separate operations across England, Scotland, and Wales. The suspects are charged with crimes such as breaking into the networks of multinational corporations and government agencies to steal data, launching distributed denial of service attacks, and developing and distributing computer viruses and other malicious software.

Company News:

UK Readies 25% ‘Google Tax’ On Tech Giants’ Diverted Profits – In the lead up to the UK’s national election in May, big tech companies are finding themselves in the crossfire. An article in the Sunday Times (paywalled) lays out more details around UK Chancellor George Osborne’s proposal for a “Google Tax” — a 25% tax on big tech companies’ profits from UK operations that, through creative accounting, have been diverted offshore, saving these businesses millions in tax bills. The tax will be included in the UK Budget, due to be published later this month. The “Google Tax” of 25% will be higher than the usual 20% corporate tax levied in the UK, and it is expected to be applied only to companies whose annual revenues are more than £250 million ($376 million).

Samsung has received more than 20 million pre-orders for its latest flagship devices – A top executive at a leading mobile carrier in Europe says that Samsung has received 20 million pre-orders for its Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge which is far better than the previous Galaxy models.

VMware alleged to have violated Linux’s open source license for years – Linux kernel developer Christoph Hellwig filed the suit in the district court of Hamburg, Germany with funding from the nonprofit Software Freedom Conservancy, which works to “promote, improve, develop, and defend” free and open source software. The case centers on “a combined work that VMware allegedly created by combining their own code (‘vmkernel’) with portions of Linux’s code, which was licensed only under GPLv2,” the group said in an FAQ describing the lawsuit.

Google is developing a virtual reality version of Android, report says – A team of engineers at Google is building a version of Android for virtual reality applications, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing two people familiar with the project. “Tens of engineers” and other staff are said to be working on the project. The OS would be freely distributed, the report said, mirroring the strategy that made Android the most popular OS for smartphones. The report didn’t provide any launch plans, and Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.


Photobucket Raises $3.6 Million, Plans To Acquire A Mobile Photo-Sharing App – Denver-based Photobucket, one of the web’s older brands which offers a photo and video-sharing service online and on mobile, has closed on $3.6 million in new funding, an SEC filing reveals and the company confirms. The additional capital is part of a larger, still-in-progress round, which sees the photo sharing service seeking around $8.1 million in new funding.

Games and Entertainment:

Blizzard Launches ‘Heroes of the Dorm’ Tourney – Want to win free college tuition? Get out your game controller. Blizzard on Friday announced a new Heroes of the Storm tournament for college students with more than $450,000 in tuition and prizes up for grabs. The so-called “Heroes of the Dorm” tourney is open to active college students in the U.S. and Canada and will have three rounds of competition. Open qualifiers begin March 28, followed by a single-elimination bracket featuring 64 teams that starts on April 11. The event concludes with a final “Heroic Four” live event in late April. The final rounds of the tourney will be televised live on ESPN.


5 Interesting Indie Games at PAX East – Titles like Banner Saga, Gone Home, and Rogue Legacy represent relatively small games that provide big entertainment for a fraction of the price of mainstream, juggernaut titles—you can purchase an acclaimed indie for roughly $15. That’s a wonderful thing in this era of the troubled AAA game, a time when $60 titles ship to stores littered with bugs that require massive Day 1 patches. Indie games, free from large publishers’ vice-like grip, often dare to be different. While AAA titles typically feature shooting, shooting, and more shooting, indie games come in a variety of flavors. And PAX East is full of them.


An example: Gathering Sky (Android, iOS, PC) – Gathering Sky has the potential to be 2015’s Journey. You guide a single bird through the sky as you explore the game world and find other birds to join you. The goal? Fly through beautiful environments and create an expressive story without words. You can expect to see Gathering Sky in digital marketplaces in mid-April.

PS4 software version 2.50 to include button remapping, rest mode enhancements – It’s a been a while since Sony has released an update to the PlayStation 4’s software that really added any new features to the console. But it appears that will change soon, as version 2.50 seems to be in the works, with members of the PlayStation MVP program getting invites to beta test the software update. Invites are said to come via message from the PlayStation Network through March 9th, while the following info about new features comes from those who’ve already downloaded the beta.

Feelreal Brings Real Scents, Heat, and Water to Virtual Reality – The Feelreal headset isn’t its own virtual reality device. Rather, it straps on to an existing headset like the Oculus Rift, the Samsung Gear VR, or Sony’s Morpheus headset (to name a few). The sensation is unique, to put it mildly. To its credit, Feelreal’s headset does a decent job of recreating sensations using a variety of techniques: Odors blasted toward your nose, hot air sent across your face, and a gentle water misting dripped onto your cheeks. Nevertheless, the experience didn’t quite thrill Robertson, who summed up his trip through a virtual reality rainforest, waterfall, and fire as “pure, unfettered fear.”


Mantle is a Vulkan: AMD’s dead graphics API rises from the ashes in OpenGL’s successor – Obi Wan said it best: ‘If you strike me down, I’ll become far more powerful than you’ll ever imagine.’ That’s happened with AMD’s API Mantle which died at 1.0 but has risen as the new Vulkan API.

Off Topic (Sort of):

21 Crazy GoPro Stunt Videos You Must Watch – Illegal shenanigans aside, it turns out that there’s a bountiful library of GoPro-enabled videos that will allow those of us with a healthy amount of respect for our physical well-beings to live vicariously through those who don’t. We don’t recommend that you try any of these activities yourself, but we do recommend that you watch as others narrowly avoid catastrophe!


Can We Guess Your Age By How You Use The Internet?


Pointing up    The test tells me that I’m 29 years old – off by 30 years. Looks like tech is keeping me young (younger, youngish?)   Smile

The Ambassador who worked from Nairobi bathroom to avoid State Dept. IT – The current scandal roiling over the use of a private e-mail server by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is just the latest in a series of scandals surrounding government e-mails. And it’s not the first public airing of problems with the State Department’s IT operations—and executives’ efforts to bypass or work around them. At least she didn’t set up an office in a restroom just to bypass State Department network restrictions and do everything over Gmail. However, another Obama administration appointee—the former ambassador to Kenya—did do that, essentially refusing to use any of the Nairobi embassy’s internal IT. He worked out of a bathroom because it was the only place in the embassy where he could use an unsecured network and his personal computer, using Gmail to conduct official business. And he did all this during a time when Chinese hackers were penetrating the personal Gmail inboxes of a number of US diplomats.

Goodyear’s new concept tires can help power your electric car – The tire is called the BH03, and it looks like the craziest tire you’ve ever seen. Goodyear plans to collect heat into the tire in a number of ways. The first is perhaps the simplest: black patches on the tire’s surface will absorb heat from the Sun — especially when you leave your car in a hot parking lot. The tire will also heat up from the effects of friction as you drive down the road. The heat generated from the tire as it flexes will also be collected..


‘Climate change’ and ‘global warming’ reportedly banned under Florida governor – Officials working in Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection were banned from using the words “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sea-level rise” under Republican state governor Rick Scott, according to a new report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Kristina Trotta, a former DEP employee, said that her regional administrator told her and her colleagues that they were no longer allowed to use the terms in 2011. Officials were reportedly told that sea-level rise was to be euphemistically referred to as “nuisance flooding.” Spokespeople for the DEP and the governor’s office said that there was no policy on the use of the terms, but four former officials told the FCIR that the unwritten order was well known and distributed verbally statewide.

Superhydrophobic paint resists scratches from sandpaper, knives – Superhydrophobic surfaces are common and very hard-wearing in nature, but man-made versions, while available, don’t last very long and easily break down when exposed to oils. That is, until now. A team of scientists at the University College London and Dalian University of Technology (China) have collaborated to create a very tough new superhydrophobic paint, capable of withstanding scratching with sandpaper or a knife blade. As this coating is able to withstand the elements, scuffs, and scrapes, it has applications in a very wide range of industries. Imagine having a car that no longer gets wet, or windows that never need to be cleaned and remain perfectly clear after a downpour. There’s even a use for it on the smartphones and tablets we all rub our fingers over every day. The research team also has high hopes for making antimicrobial surfaces for use in hospitals.


You have the right to bear arms, not “electrical” arms, court declares – Massachusetts’ ban on the private possession of stun guns—an “electrical weapon” under the statute—does not violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms, the state’s top court has ruled. The decision says (PDF) that the US Constitution’s framers never envisioned the modern stun-gun device, first patented in 1972. The top court said stun guns are not suitable for military use, and that it did not matter whether state lawmakers have approved the possession of handguns outside the home.

Pointing up    The boundless enthusiasm for high-hurdling logic in this decision is (now, I’m carefully choosing my words here) – CRAZY!

Drinking Poison Control Medicine Is the Newest Bougie Health Fad – Juice companies and wellness blogs are suddenly lauding activated charcoal as a cure-all “detoxifier,” but you may want to think twice before forking over $10 for “activated lemonade.”

Something to think about:

“A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.”

–       Salman Rushdie

Today’s Free Downloads:

1600 Windows Icons (Metro Style) – 1600 Windows Icons (Metro Style) is a free collection of icons in Windows 8’s Metro style that you can use to update older versions of Windows or add variety to Windows 8. The icons are in PNG format and must be unzipped and converted to ICO files for Windows.


Metro style: Windows 8’s cool Metro design language takes its name and stylistic cues from the iconic typography of Swiss public signs that many people appreciate.

Lots and lots: Any way you count them, 1,600 is a lot of icons, especially for free.

Wide variety: While system icons predominate, we saw a lot of unique and much-needed themes, such as Christmas, Halloween, and Phones — even “Star Trek” and “Dr. Who.”


Conversion required: You must convert 1600 Windows Icons’ PNG files to icon (ICO) files for most Windows uses. Freeware and online converters are easy to use, but you might find the extra step more taxing than a few icons are worth.

One by one: It’s not difficult to change Windows icons, but it might take you a while to change them one by one, especially with so many to choose from in 1600 Windows Icons’ collection.

Bottom Line

The clean, well-rendered Metro style is particularly suitable for computer interfaces. Despite the steps involved, we think 1600 Windows Icons’ stylish replacements are worth the time and effort it takes to unpack and install them.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UK Supreme Court waves through indiscriminate police surveillance – A Supreme Court decision handed down on Wednesday has given carte blanche to police forces to retain personal data they have collected for virtually any purpose and hold it as long as they like – even when the people targeted are not violent and have committed no crime.

New Zealand PM refuses to rule out mass surveillance – New Zealand’s prime minister has refused to rule out the possibility that the country’s electronic spy agency conducts mass surveillance, while suggesting that New Zealanders are not legally entitled to be told when their communications data is collected.

Who’s who in Australia’s mandatory data-retention debate – Summary: There are a lot of players in the mandatory data-retention debate. We look at who is for the legislation, and who is opposing it.

Schneier on Security: Data and Goliath’s Big Idea – Data and Goliath is a book about surveillance, both government and corporate. It’s an exploration in three parts: what’s happening, why it matters, and what to do about it. This is a big and important issue, and one that I’ve been working on for decades now. We’ve been on a headlong path of more and more surveillance, fueled by fear­–of terrorism mostly­–on the government side, and convenience on the corporate side. My goal was to step back and say “wait a minute; does any of this make sense?” I’m proud of the book, and hope it will contribute to the debate. But there’s a big idea here too, and that’s the balance between group interest and self-interest.

The CIA will reorganize to increase its focus on cybersecurity – The CIA is planning one of the largest reorganizations in the agency’s history, The Washington Post reports. CIA director John Brennan unveiled the plans in a press briefing today, saying the agency will focus more on cybersecurity issues and digital espionage. In addition to undergoing a massive structural overhaul, the CIA will create a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” to track advances and threats in cyberspace.

Australia to prosecute Heartbleed pentest in desperation to pin charges on Anonymous radio host – Arrested 10 months ago by Australian Federal Police, Anonymous radio host LoraxLive (Adam Bennett) faces a prosecution struggling to pin charges on him.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 6, 2015

Signal Keeps Your iPhone Calls And Texts Safe From Government Spies;  Facebook post written in Florida lands US man in United Arab Emirates jail;  Prepare to take your laptop to another country;  Google Launches A New Tool To Sell Car Insurance;  Windows 10: Will your PC run it?  10 best uses for open source software in the business world;  Dropcam customers now need to open a Nest account;  DNS enhancement catches malware sites;    Stop the presses: HTTPS-crippling “FREAK” bug affects Windows after all;  How ‘The Sims’ Turned Me into a Virtual Sociopath;  Comcast won’t let anyone watch HBO Go on PlayStation 4;  Apple, Facebook, Comcast, and hundreds of others ask Supreme Court for nationwide marriage equality;  Microsoft comes right out and says backup software is dead.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Signal Keeps Your iPhone Calls And Texts Safe From Government Spies – An iOS app called Signal is a project out of Open Whisper Systems, a not-for-profit collective of hackers dedicated to making it harder for prying government eyes to get a hold of your information. It gets high marks from both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation as a comprehensive solution for protecting your privacy.

Canadian bloke refuses to hand over phone password, gets cuffed – A 38-year-old Canadian citizen has been arrested for refusing to hand over his smartphone’s password to border agents. Alain Philippon, of Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines in Quebec, arrived at Halifax international airport in Canada from the Dominican Republic on Wednesday – and was selected by the Canada Border Services Agency for further screening. In the course of that search he was asked to provide the password for his phone but refused. He was charged with “hindering or preventing border officers from performing their role,” according to CBC. Philippon was released on bail, and is reportedly willing to challenge the decision when he heads to court on May 12. While border officials are given much broader search powers than other authorities, the issue of whether a Canadian border agent is entitled to demand access to the contents of Canadian’s private phone or laptop has not been tested in court.

Pointing up   Prediction: This case will eventually prove to be the seventh out of eight Supreme Court challenges, in which the Harper government has been defeated.  

The score so far – Canadians 6. The Harper government 1.

Obviously, a Supreme Court that is neither ideologically or political driven, favours the people. Yeah, you and me. Imagine that.

Prepare to take your laptop to another country – Traveling internationally with a laptop is a lot easier than it was when I first wrote about it in 2000—at least when it comes to hardware compatibilities. Back then, I had to make my dial-up modem work with the German telephone system. Today, ethernet and Wi-Fi are pretty much everywhere. In today’s more paranoid world, your biggest challenges will likely involve protecting files and crossing international borders.

Ubiquitous screens pose new parenting challenges in the 21st century – Parents are wondering how, when, and where to incorporate screens and media into their little ones’ lives. See what the evidence shows, and learn tips and guidelines about screen time for children.


YouTube Kids on an iPad. Image: Jason Cipriani/CNET

Pay with your smartphone without Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Wallet – Check out these three apps that let you pay with the phone you have right now, no NFC required.

Facebook post written in Florida lands US man in United Arab Emirates jail – A helicopter mechanic who popped off about his Middle East job on Facebook while at home in the US got more than an upbraiding from his bosses when he returned to his gig in the United Arab Emirates. He was met in Abu Dhabi with an arrest, 10 days in jail, and a March 17 trial date—with a potential five years in prison if convicted. Thirty-year-old Ryan Pate of Belleair Bluffs, Florida, is accused of slandering his employer, which is illegal in the Emirates. He wrote in December about his superiors at Global Aerospace Logistics being “backstabbers.” He left Florida to return overseas, pack up his stuff, and quit his job. Police called him to come to the station, and he was arrested last month.

Pointing up  Having first visited Abu Dhabi in 1976, I can well understand where this comes from. At a basic level, this piece of sand and its “original occupants”, has contempt for those of us who actively engage in what we in the West call – work. Work, which is performed primarily by “foreigners”.

Google Launches A New Tool To Sell Car Insurance To U.S Web Searchers – Confirming earlier reports that Google has been plotting a move to help sell consumers auto insurance in the U.S., the search giant announced this morning it’s launching a new feature called “Google Compare for Auto Insurance,” a comparison-shopping site that lets you compare the rates from different insurance providers. The option to compare rates will begin popping up after a consumer does a Google search for “car insurance” using Google’s search engine. Initially, the service is being made available to California residents, but Google says other states will soon follow later this year.


10 best uses for open source software in the business world – Open source offers some compelling benefits for businesses large and small — but you might be surprised at some of the ways it’s being used. Let’s take a look at 10 possible best-case uses for open source software that can help make your business grow, bring you a level of flexibility and reliability you haven’t experienced, or just save you a welcome percentage of your budget.

Find out what it’s doing outside with Storm by Weather Underground – The free Storm app for iOS provides high-resolution radar, a huge buffet of map layers and detailed weather information.


Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Dropcam customers now need to open a Nest account – Nine months after the half-a-billion dollar deal that brought Dropcam to the Google-owned Nest, the two home automation companies are starting to integrate their products. Dropcam customers received an email this week that informed them they now needed to sign up for a Nest account to get the full functionality out of the home-monitoring cameras sold by the San Francisco-based startup. During sign-up, Dropcam customers have to accept a new terms of service agreement and privacy statement.

Haiku Deck’s Zuru tool uses AI to help you create PowerPoints fast – Most people hate putting together a PowerPoint deck. If you’re one of those, Haiku Deck’s new Zuru tool promises to cut the time you need to spend to do so to a matter of minutes. For each slide, a user simply needs to input his or her text; Zuru then analyzes the content, highlighting what it thinks are the key points and matching the text with a thematically appropriate image.


Microsoft comes right out and says backup software is dead – Microsoft’s been making lots of noise lately about its send-your-snapshots-to-the-cloud service Azure Site Recovery. But now it’s come right out and said it: Redmond reckons backup software deserves to die. “If cloud storage had existed decades ago, it’s unlikely that the industry would have developed the backup processes that are commonly used today,” Microsoft says. Which is nonsense: dedicated backup tools offer more subtleties than Microsoft’s growing range of snapshot–and-cloud-centric products and services. To Microsoft, the cloud is its backup hammer and every problem looks like a nail.

Windows 10: Will your PC run it? – Let’s go behind the specs and find out everything you need to know about getting Windows 10 running on a PC, but were too afraid (or confused) to ask.

Pointing up    I’m currently testing Win 10 on a Core 2 Duo 2.6 with 2 GB and native graphics – runs like a charm (no pun intended). And that, is an OLD machine.

Our 10 Favorite Windows 10 Universal Apps – Microsoft has committed to unifying its app store to support all screen sizes from phones to high-powered desktop PCs. Here are the best apps so far.


Windows 10’s Xbox App: More about extending a console than embracing PC gaming – Microsoft says Windows 10 embraces PC gaming, but the Xbox app is all about bringing the console to your computer–with one killer exception.

New iOS app Spotless keeps your Instagram comments spam-free – Love Instagram but hate all the insta-spam? If you’re looking to clean up the comments section of your Instagram feed, you can keep it free of trolls, promoters, cyber-bullies, and bots using Spotless. Spotless is the new app for Instagram that allows you to automatically delete spam comments. It can even tell the difference between a friend or foe and safeguard comments that you might actually care about while nipping annoying bots in the bud. Using Spotless just might help your Instagram get a little more insta-zen.

Music recognition app Shazam wants to help you identify more than music – Song recognition app Shazam wants to recognize more than just audio. A report from Reuters says the app is planning on expanding its search function to the visual realm too, letting users identify items such as DVDs and groceries with their phone’s camera. “We want to expand the universe of what you can Shazam,” chief executive Rich Riley told the news agency. “The famous blue button that our users love will remain on the home screen but will be able to do much more.”


Stop the presses: HTTPS-crippling “FREAK” bug affects Windows after all – Computers running all supported versions of Microsoft Windows are vulnerable to “FREAK,” a bug disclosed Monday that for more than a decade has made it possible for attackers to decrypt HTTPS-protected traffic passing between vulnerable end-users and millions of websites. Microsoft confirmed the vulnerability in an advisory published Thursday. FREAK attacks—short for Factoring attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys—are possible when an end-user with a vulnerable device connects to a vulnerable HTTPS-protected website. Vulnerable sites are those configured to use a weak cipher that many presumed had been retired long ago.

DNS enhancement catches malware sites by understanding sneaky domain names – A researcher at OpenDNS Security Labs has developed a new way to automatically detect and block sites used to distribute malware almost instantaneously without having to scan them. The approach, initially developed by researcher Jeremiah O’Connor, uses natural language processing and other analytics to detect malicious domains before they can attack by spotting host names that are designed as camouflage. Called NLPRank, it spots DNS requests for sites that have names similar to legitimate sites, but with IP addresses that are outside the expected address blocks and other related data that hints at sketchiness.

Pointing up   Now this I like. A relatively simple idea – as opposed to some of the more esoteric skydreams we’ve been forced to consider. If we can keep on top of this, and adjust as circumstances dictate (you can bet it will be under attack immediately), this could turn out to be an important tool.

Anthem refuses comprehensive IT security audit after the breach – Recently breached US health insurer Anthem has refused to let The Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) perform a full security audit of its systems, and this is not the first time this happened, reports GovInfoSecurity. The company also refused to allow the federal watchdog agency scan their systems for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations back in September 2013. Citing “corporate policy” as the reason and fearing outages because they would have to turn off its antivirus software for the agency to perform the testing, Anthem passed on the offer (as is their right to do, apparently).

Company News:

Amazon opens web store inside of Chinese archrival – Amazon has opened a store on Tmall, an online marketplace owned by Chinese retail giant and Amazon archrival Alibaba. The new store, which sells food, shoes, toys, kitchenware, and other items imported from outside China, shows Amazon’s intentions to grow its business in a market projected to be worth $1.01 trillion by 2018.

Softcard’s mobile payments app is shutting down in March after tech sale to Google – After earlier announcing it had sold some of its technology to Google, Softcard now says it will shut down the app for good on March 31. As part of the buyout, the three backers of Softcard—Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile—said they will load Google Wallet onto Android phones running KitKat or higher later this year.

Adobe invites help with hunting vulnerabilities, but no bounty money – Adobe Systems launched a new program that encourages security researchers to find and report vulnerabilities in the company’s websites and other online services. Unlike companies like Google, Mozilla, Facebook or Twitter that pay monetary rewards for vulnerabilities found in their Web properties, Adobe’s program only promises public recognition for such contributions.

Pointing up    I can well understand the “no payment” idea. Kicking out cash just to cover the next to be reported vulnerabilities in Reader and Flash, would be a logistical nightmare.   Smile

Netflix says it still supports Net neutrality, despite CFO’s comments – Netflix’s recent deal in Australia and comments from its CFO suggested it was backtracking on its pro-neutrality stance.

Samsung upgrading LED display collection with Yesco Electronics buy – Samsung is looking to strengthen its B2B display portfolio with the acquisition of Yesco Electronics. The Utah-based company produces LED-equipped signs and displays. Yesco already counts more than 2,000 installations worldwide across multiple industries — notably retail, education, hospitality, corporate, and transportation. Samsung plans to use Yesco’s resources to bolster its own outdoor LED display catalog beyond its existing pile of large-format displays (LFDs) toward LCD-based panels.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft: DirectX 12 will increase your graphics performance by an additional 20 percent – Microsoft has said previously that its upcoming DirectX 12 API will make your PC more efficient. Now we know by how much: just by using DirectX, executives said, you’ll see an additional 20 percent improvement in your graphics frame rate, and a drop in CPU utilisation to boot. What does this mean? During an Intel press conference at GDC Wednesday night, Bryan Langley, a principal program manager for graphics with Microsoft, put it into context. “This is like getting free hardware,” Langley said. “So if you’re a gamer, and you upgrade to Windows 10, and you have that Iris Pro, it’s like getting that extra kick. It may make your game go from not quite playable, to playable, from mediocre to awesome, from awesome to just out of this world.”

Elite: Dangerous coming to Xbox One and Oculus Rift this summer – One of the best things in gaming, is seeing a successful Kickstarter game hit the market. It’s been a long wait, but Elite: Dangerous is finally hitting Xbox One this summer. This game was designed for Oculus Rift too, so you can enjoy a complete VR experience in this trippy space game in all the glory of smooth 4k video. If you’ve been waiting for a new game to test the limits to see what Oculus can do, this might be it. Not only will you get to look around at a beautiful galaxy in VR, but you get to zoom around 2,400 space systems all from the captain’s chair, which could also be your couch.


MindLeap VR system throws away controllers, reads minds – Virtual Reality might have just gotten a wee bit weirder. Or fancier, depending on your take. Neurotechnology company MindMaze is growing out of its roots in the medical industry and stepping into the games biz. At GDC 2015, it just revealed what could be the evolution of VR platforms, even while VR platforms are still at a growing phase. MindLeap, as it is called, may look like a regular head-mounted display, but you won’t need controllers or even gloves to use it. All you need is to think.


Surprise: Comcast won’t let anyone watch HBO Go on PlayStation 4 – And here’s the thing: Comcast subscribers are really missing out. After spending some time with HBO Go on PlayStation 4 last night, I think it’s the best experience I’ve had with the service yet. It was worth some waiting. The app is lightning fast, fluid, and intuitive with a gorgeous user interface from top to bottom. Give me this over HBO Go on the Apple TV any day of the week. If you’ve used HBO Go on Xbox One, you’ve seen something similar. But if Sony is your console maker of choice, you simply can’t have the best HBO Go experience available right now. That sucks and isn’t fair.

Lastronaut Is A Totally Free, Totally Addictive Endless Running Game For iPhone – Endless runners are pretty much perfect for mobile devices, because they’re easy to get into and great for short play sessions. A new iPhone game in that genre from a Toronto-based developers Darrin Henein and Stephan Leroux called Lastronaut may be the best currently available endless runner for those looking for value: it’s totally free, with no ads or in-app purchases whatsoever. It focuses on the Lastronaut, a pixelated protagonist who is the person left behind to close up shop and follow the rest of humanity into space following a robot apocalypse that resulted in the need for a mass exodus of our home planet.


How ‘The Sims’ Turned Me into a Virtual Sociopath – You could cause some real terror to the little Sims – I never really played the game to “succeed.” I wasn’t the player full of aspirations, who wanted to have the best business card, the best job, or the best girlfriend. I played it to wreak as much havoc as possible. And the violence you could find in it was much darker than the stuff you’d see in Manhunt, or Grand Theft Auto. With those games, it’s just mindless rage. You don’t stick a crowbar into someone’s head in those games, and then phone up that guy’s wife, invite her over and start kissing her straight afterwards. But that’s what used to happen when I played The Sims.


Look at the eyes. Those eyes have seen death. Those eyes have been death.

Four major theater chains boycott Netflix’s latest film – Netflix has long been changing the way television shows are consumed, but more recently its business moves have threatened to alter the future of feature films, and theaters aren’t taking kindly to it. Earlier this week, Netflix bought “Beasts of No Nation” for $12 million; it’s a drama from Cary Fukunaga, and it is set to debut on the video streaming service the same day it debuts in theaters. Those theater chains, however, have a different plan — they’re going to boycott the film entirely, taking a hard stance against Netflix’s growing push for simultaneous movie launches.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Apple, Facebook, Comcast, and hundreds of others ask Supreme Court for nationwide marriage equality – A host of the biggest companies in the world, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and 374 others have banded together to file an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court stating that all couples should share the right to marry. The brief, which was filed today by law firm Morgan Lewis, actually makes a business case for legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. It claims that the currently muddled and confusing legal landscape surrounding same-sex marriage “places significant burdens on employers and their employees — making it increasingly hard to conduct business.”  It’s not just huge tech companies coming out in support here, either — the businesses range from smaller, family-owned businesses all the way up to giants like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Comcast, Levi’s, Nike, Proctor & Gamble, Wells Fargo, United Airlines, and dozens more.

Insane video puts you in front seat of world’s tallest ‘giga coaster’ – Before you watch the video, I have to ask if you’ve eaten anything recently. If so, you might want to wait a bit. The video puts you smack at the front of the tallest giga coaster ever made — Fury 325 — which is set to debut at Carowinds, an amusement park in Charlotte, N.C., at the end of this month.


The Money Shot: Product Placement in Porn Is Now a Thing – Porn has entered the final stages of its manifest destiny takeover of all aspects of society. One of the clearest examples of this was Pornhub’s entry into the music industry by launching a record company last October and shooting an NSFW hip-hop video with Coolio. Now, one dating website is blurring the lines further. In January, appointed Kayden Kross—an award-winning porn star—as its president. It seems that the future of porn is in product placement. The next time you go to your favourite tube site and feverishly type in “gangbang,” you may soon encounter close-ups of an energy drink while your hands are down your pants. Thirsty?


Veronica Vain. Photos courtesy

Even the inventor of K-Cups regrets his coffee mistake – Pod coffee has proved controversial for its taste and its ecological impact, and no single-serve option has been more contentious than Keurig’s K-Cups. On the one hand there’s the convenience: drop in a pod, hit the button, and seconds later be drinking hot coffee. On the other, though, there are questions around freshness, the poor recyclability of pods, and – particularly in Keurig’s case – the use of patents and DRM to lock consumers to a single brand. Turns out, even the guy who created K-Cups in the first place now regrets it.


Einstein’s Cross: Distant supernova split into four by gravitational lensing – An exploding star directly behind a cluster of enormous galaxies has been split into four images by the light-bending properties of the cluster’s gravity.


Are Drones A Fad Or Here For Good? – Drones are no longer just seen as a tool of the military or a toy that people use to fly around. Take consumer perception — “drone” is a household word. Just look at the Google Trends for the word “drones” or “DJI.” Check out the number of drone videos on YouTube (~827,000). According to Frost and Sullivan, an aerospace research firm, over 200,000 drones were sold each month in 2014. Parrot, a french drone maker, reported sales of over $47 million in drones in 2013. Whether we like it or not, we are going to be seeing more drones in the sky and on the news, and they will get cheaper, faster and more reliable. Here, I want to go into some reasons why I think drones are not just a fad but are here to stay.

Republicans’ “Internet Freedom Act” would wipe out net neutrality – US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) this week filed legislation she calls the “Internet Freedom Act” to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s new network neutrality rules. The FCC’s neutrality rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or throttling Internet traffic, prohibit prioritization of traffic in exchange for payment, and require the ISPs to disclose network management practices. The legislation has 31 Republican cosponsors.

John McCain says he doesn’t use e-mail, afraid of what he’ll say – Technically Incorrect: The Republican stalwart says he has other people doing his e-mailing for him.

Pointing up    And, this guy gets to vote on net net neutrality? Sad that this Luddite commands influence – any influence, in any sphere.

Something to think about:

“I don’t email at all.”

–    John McCain

Today’s Free Downloads:

CopyTrans Manager Free – The free iTunes Alternative to manage iPhone, iPad and iPhone without iTunes.

Use CopyTrans Manager to add songs, videos, apps and more to your iPhone. Add and manage playlists, lyrics and artwork, or change ID3 Tags such as artist, album, ratings etc. The best of all? CopyTrans Manager is portable, a 100% free and supports all iPhones, iPads and iPods.



A super little app. Screenshot from a personal system.

Robocraft – Robocraft is a free online game where you can build awesome robots from cubes, jump in and drive them, and then take them into epic battles online.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Obama criticises China’s mandatory backdoor tech import rules – As previously reported, proposed new regulations from the Chinese government would require technology firms to create backdoors and provide source code to the Chinese government before technology sales within China would be authorised.

China is also asking that tech companies adopt Chinese encryption algorithms and disclose elements of their intellectual property.

The new requirements, laid out in a 22-page document approved late last year, are supposedly geared towards strengthening the cyber security of critical Chinese industries and guarding against terrorism.

In an interview with Reuters, Obama said Beijing’s far-reaching counter-terrorism law would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys as well as installing “backdoors” into systems, thus granting Chinese authorities access in the process.

“We have made it very clear that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States,” Obama said. “This is something that I’ve raised directly with President Xi.”

Pointing up   Good lord! This hypocrisy may play well in the home market for Obama – but, the rest of the world sees this bullshit for what it is. 

You can’t do what I want to do – and, if you insist on trying, then I’m not playing any more. I’m just gonna pack up my shit and go home. 

Who, in their right mind, would call this effective diplomacy.

The “Snowden is ready to come home!” story: a case study in typical media deceit – Most sentient people rationally accept that the U.S. media routinely disseminates misleading stories and outright falsehoods in the most authoritative tones. But it’s nonetheless valuable to examine particularly egregious case studies to see how that works. In that spirit, let’s take yesterday’s numerous, breathless reports trumpeting the “BREAKING” news that “Edward Snowden now wants to come home!” and is “now negotiating the terms of his return!”

Ever since Snowden revealed himself to the public 20 months ago, he has repeatedly said the same exact thing when asked about his returning to the U.S.: I would love to come home, and would do so if I could get a fair trial, but right now, I can’t.

His primary rationale for this argument has long been that under the Espionage Act, the 1917 statute under which he has been charged, he would be barred by U.S. courts from even raising his key defense: that the information he revealed to journalists should never have been concealed in the first place and he was thus justified in disclosing it to journalists. In other words, when U.S. political and media figures say Snowden should “man up,” come home and argue to a court that he did nothing wrong, they are deceiving the public, since they have made certain that whistleblowers charged with “espionage” are legally barred from even raising that defense.

Snowden has also pointed out that legal protections for whistleblowers are explicitly inapplicable to those, like him, who are employed by private contractors (rendering President Obama’s argument about why Snowden should “come home” entirely false). One month after Snowden was revealed, Daniel Ellsberg wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post arguing that Snowden did the right thing in leaving the U.S. because he would not be treated fairly, and argued Snowden should not return until he is guaranteed a fully fair trial.

Now Corporate Drones are Spying on Cell Phones – The marketing firm Adnear is using drones to track cell phone users –

The capture does not involve conversations or personally identifiable information, according to director of marketing and research Smriti Kataria. It uses signal strength, cell tower triangulation, and other indicators to determine where the device is, and that information is then used to map the user’s travel patterns.

“Let’s say someone is walking near a coffee shop,” Kataria said by way of example.

The coffee shop may want to offer in-app ads or discount coupons to people who often walk by but don’t enter, as well as to frequent patrons when they are elsewhere. Adnear’s client would be the coffee shop or other retailers who want to entice passersby.


The system identifies a given user through the device ID, and the location info is used to flesh out the user’s physical traffic pattern in his profile. Although anonymous, the user is “identified” as a code. The company says that no name, phone number, router ID, or other personally identifiable information is captured, and there is no photography or video.

Does anyone except this company believe that device ID is not personally identifiable information?

US Senators hope to crack down on the trade of private information – Four US senators are introducing legislation aimed at turning the screws on businesses that gather up and sell citizens’ personal information.

Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Al Franken (D-MN) have teamed up to introduce the Data-broker Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) [PDF], which will let Americans correct and remove their private details from databases.

If the bill makes it into law, so-called data brokers can be forced to stop selling a person’s information, and they would be forbidden from using deceptive practices to gather data on people. Additionally, brokers would be required to give users access to their information, and allow them to update or correct sensitive records.

The bill covers information from ages and marital statuses to hobbies, jobs, ailments, and much more: details that companies can legally collect and sell to others. Publicly available information, such as names and addresses, can only be updated if the original source corrects the data.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 5, 2015

Hillary Clinton operated email server for state business;  Google is ditching Chrome support for Ice Cream Sandwich devices;  Easily add files from Dropbox to Gmail with this handy extension;  Imgur launches iPhone app to make browsing addicting images easy;  These Are the 15 Most Useful iPhone and Android Voice Commands;  Government hustles to enact privacy rules for drones;  Break me if you can: 4 rugged tablets put to the test;  MakerBot announces Startup Lab for schools, businesses;  Wolfenstein: The Old Blood arrives in May;  Paul Allen hunts down sunken Japanese WWII super-battleship;  Tom Ridge Can Find Terrorists Anywhere.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Hillary Clinton operated email server for state business – What you’re about to read is actually really impressive. It’s also highly unorthodox, extremely suspicious, and downright sidesteps all the governmental safeguards and checks/balances in play for the security of its employees. But man, it sure is interesting. Hillary Clinton was recently found to use her personal email address for official state business while Secretary of State. Bad enough, right? A new report also details how Clinton used her own server to run this email service. At her home. See?! Pretty impressive, right?

These Are the 15 Most Useful iPhone and Android Voice Commands – Not sure how to get the most out of your phone just by speaking to it? No worries – those of us here at Techlicious have put together this guide of the 15 most useful phone voice commands for iOS and Android. Take a look and give some of these a try – I really can’t rave enough about how useful and easy these commands are.

Google, Yahoo offer online tools to keep address books current – Google is updating Contacts, which functions as an address book for communication software like Gmail and Hangouts. The revamped Contacts, available in a preview version, will make it easier to keep track of a user’s contacts by pooling information stored in various Google services, the company said in a blog post Tuesday. On Wednesday, Yahoo unveiled its own new contacts feature, which also displays information in a card format. When a user hovers over a name in an email message, a contact card will appear and show information including job title, links to social media profiles and a phone number.

Google is ditching Chrome support for Ice Cream Sandwich devices – Chrome 42 will be the last update for devices with Ice Cream Sandwich, a nearly four-year-old version of Android. Google says on the Chromium Blog that you’ll still be able to use Chrome if you have an older device, but Chrome 42 will be the last release through the Play Store. On an FAQ page, Google says supporting Ice Cream Sandwich requires too many compromises, with workarounds and complex code required to keep older devices on board.

Helps Teachers Create Interactive Online Lessons, Partners With Wolfram Alpha – Versal is a service that allows teachers to build and publish interactive online courses, homework assignments and tutorials. The company launched its service out of beta today, but maybe more importantly, it also announced a partnership with Wolfram Research. Thanks to this deal with Wolfram Research — which includes Stephen Wolfram joining the Versal board of directors — Versal now allows teachers to embed content from Wolfram into their courses. Currently, this means teachers can use the Wolfram Language to create content.


Google confirms poor performance is to blame for reneged Android Lollipop encryption pledge – It turns out there was something to the report that hardware performance was to blame for Google backing off its encryption requirement for new Lollipop devices. Such problems started showing up as early as November, when a test showed flipping on encryption tanked Nexus 6 storage performance. This issue has clearly hit enough Android devices to compel Google to back off from its original plan to require encryption in all new phones running Lollipop. Fortunately, you can turn this security feature on yourself by following our encryption guide.

Break me if you can: 4 rugged tablets put to the test – Rugged tablets offer reinforced frames, tough skins, watertight seals, hardened glass, soft corner bumpers and major components that are shock-mounted. In other words, if ordinary consumer tablets can be considered sports (or economy) cars, rugged tablets are tanks. To see what the current state of the art is for rugged tablets, I gathered together three of the newest Windows-based worker-proof slates: the Mobile Demand xTablet Flex 10, the Getac F110 and the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1. I also tried out Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Active, a reinforced Android tablet.


Imgur launches iPhone app to make browsing addicting images easy – Imgur is ready to take mobile seriously. The popular image sharing site is launching a new iPhone app on Thursday that reimagines the experience of browsing through its massive collection of photos, GIFs, and other images. This isn’t the first time that Imgur has tried to launch a mobile app, but Imgur thinks that this is the first time it got it right. “The app is beautiful,” Alan Schaaf, Imgur founder and CEO, tells The Verge. “It’s just absolutely beautiful and the best browsing experience for Imgur period, that exists.”

Spartan browser, Cortana play nice in leaked Windows 10 vid – In Windows 10, Microsoft will be breaking from the past. Somewhat. And at least when it comes to web browsers. It will still ship with Internet Explorer “for legacy reasons”, but it wants people to know that it is working on the next big thing, presently codenamed “Spartan”. Unlike the bloat that is usually associated with IE, Spartan is absolutely minimal. It doesn’t even have visible window borders! But more than just its looks, Spartan has a few talents to show, including a special friendship with Cortana.


Easily add files from Dropbox to Gmail with this handy extension – Here’s the catch ─ it only works with Gmail. This functionality has yet to find its way into Inbox. With that said, if you’re a Gmail and Dropbox user, this extension is for you. It’s easy to install, easy to use, and removes a few clicks from one of your daily routines. Let’s install this handy extension and see how it works.

The other guys: Canonical and Jolla trot out alternatives to Android, iOS – Apple and Google have further tightened their grip on the smartphone OS market; they had a market share of 96.1 percent last year, up from 94 percent in 2013, according to Gartner. However, that hasn’t deterred Mozilla, Samsung Electronics, Canonical and Finnish start-up Jolla from developing their own OSes. At Mobile World Congress they all showed commercial devices for the first time. Mozilla’s Firefox OS and Samsung’s Tizen have user interfaces that are very reminiscent of Android, but Canonical with Ubuntu Phone and Jolla with Sailfish have been either brave or stupid enough to try something different.


5 tips to avoid identity theft – “Tax fraud is widespread and happening as you read this,” says security and identity theft expert for Credit Sesame, Neal O’Farrell. “In the first week of February, a grand jury indicted 16 people for running a tax refund identity theft scheme, where they used 11,000 stolen identities, complete with driver’s licenses and Social Security cards, to file bogus tax returns totaling $38 million. They had the refunds deposited in more than 3,000 phony bank accounts opened in 440 different financial institutions. This is clear evidence that these identity theft rings are well organized, patient and motivated.” Credit Sesame encourages consumers to consider the following when filing their taxes this year:

Government hustles to enact privacy rules for drones – As drones move into the air space, the U.S. government will “take steps to ensure that the integration takes into account not only our economic competitiveness and public safety, but also the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns these systems may raise,” the White House said in the memo.

China says its new cybersurveillance proposal mimics U.S. practices – China is scratching its head over why the U.S. is opposing a new anti-terror law relating to cybersurveillance when the U.S. and other countries have also requested that tech companies hand over data to help stop terrorists. On Wednesday, China’s parliamentary spokeswoman tried to play down the impact the proposed legislation might have on foreign tech businesses, in the face of U.S. fears it would require companies to hand over sensitive data to the country’s government. The anti-terror law is still under review, but if passed, it would require tech companies to give encryption keys to the authorities, and create “back doors” into their systems for government surveillance access.

Apple and Google prepare patches for FREAK SSL flaw – Apple and Google are preparing patches for a newly-revealed bug in the web encryption protocols used by the two companies’ mobile browsers. The FREAK bug disclosed yesterday is the latest in a series of vulnerabilities affecting the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols used to encrypt traffic between an HTTPS website and a browser.

Company News:

Microsoft announces partnership with Deutsche Telekom to promote devices and services – Microsoft announced earlier today at Mobile World Congress 2015 its partnership with Deutsche Telekom to promote cloud services and devices in 12 countries across Europe. According to Microsoft, both the companies will work together to expand and increase the reach of Microsoft’s devices and services. The partnership will see both Microsoft and Deutsche Telekom carry out joint promotions of OneDrive, Office 365 and the Lumia range of smartphones in Europe. Additionally, the carrier has also been revealed to be a launch partner for Windows 10 based devices, when they arrive later this year.

Twitter In Talks With Live Streaming App Periscope – …Twitter has been in talks to purchase live streaming app Periscope, which many private beta users have compared to Meerkat. The talks are in early stages, but it’s clear that Periscope and Meerkat are doing similar things in a similar space. One source pegs a possible deal at around $100M, another source says the deal is worth a fraction of that. Live streaming on the backbone of the Twitter user graph is certainly intriguing, as the uptake of Meerkat has proven. t would be a natural fit for Twitter to acquire one of the apps in this space. It’s right in line with its real-time tentpole and feels inevitable.

MakerBot announces Startup Lab for schools, businesses – Today, MakerBot is announcing Starter Lab, an initiative to get schools up and running with 3D printing. The program provides schools everything they need to start creating, with a printer, parts and materials, and even a workshop custom designed to the school’s needs. The program is open to all schools and levels of education; even kids as young as kindergarten can start 3D printing, now. Two colleges have already purchased MakerBot’s Starter Lab, which is available now to interested schools.

Judge approves $415 million settlement in Apple and Google employee poaching scandal – The $415 million settlement put forward by Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel, and other Silicon Valley companies over employee-hiring practices has been tentatively approved by the federal judge dealing with the case. Judge Lucy Koh rejected the first proposed settlement, worth $324 million, in August last year, saying that it wasn’t high enough to make up for the lost wages employees may have suffered after the companies involved in the case allegedly set up no-poaching agreements that allowed them to set and limit wages. Koh signed off on the latest deal after the companies involved in the case — including Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Intuit — agreed to increase the amount they paid in compensation.

IBM Buys AlchemyAPI to Boost Watson’s Brain Power – From Jeopardy champ to worldwide development platform, IBM’s Watson supercomputer will continue to bulk up its brain power with today’s acquisition of AlchemyAPI. IBM, meanwhile, intends to use AlchemyAPI to enhance Watson’s ability to ingest, train, and learn the “long-tail” of data domains. The firm’s clients will also be able to tap into a host of new APIs, like “language analysis APIs to address new types of text and visual recognition, and the ability to automatically detect, label and extract important details from image data.”

Uber snaps up mapping company deCarta – Uber announced Tuesday it’s acquiring mapping and search startup deCarta to help improve its car-pool service and to better calculate how long passengers’ Uber rides will take. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Games and Entertainment:

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood arrives in May – Bethesda has announced the upcoming launch of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, which is bid as a standalone prequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order. This prequel is set in 1946 with B.J Blazkowicz taking the lead in an effort to stop the Nazis’ nearing victory. There are two missions to the game, one that involves breaking into Castle Wolfenstein and the other that takes players to Wulfburg city to find a “Nazi archaeologist” unearthing powers that could, says the maker, doom everyone. The Old Blood is being developed at MachineGames, and will be launching on May 5, 2015 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. When it arrives, gamers will be able to download a digital copy for $19.99 USD.


Nvidia’s Shield Set-Top Box Could Finally Make The Stream Dream Real – This new gadget is called simply the Nvidia Shield, which means the company probably wants it to lead the lineup that also includes the Shield Tablet and Shield Portable, and it’s powered by the new Tegra X1 processor Nvidia debuted at CES this year. More important than all that, however, is that it’s a delivery mechanism for Grid, the streaming game service introduced by Nvidia last year that offers subscription-based access to top-tier PC games streamed via the cloud, in 1080p resolution running at 60fps.

Nvidia’s Shield Set-Top Box Could Finally Make The Stream Dream Real

Microsoft launches Xbox One SDK to let any developer build apps for its console – Microsoft is finally letting developers build apps for the Xbox One. While the software maker has had a private SDK since the console’s launch, that will start to go a lot more public today. At the Games Developer Conference (GDC) today, Xbox chief Phil Spencer revealed that Microsoft is launching its Xbox One SDK today to select testers, with plans to let any developer access the SDK in the coming months.


Sling TV Brings AMC, IFC And EPIX To Its Subscription Service For Cord Cutters – Dish’s newly launched streaming video subscription service Sling TV announced this morning the addition of two more channels, AMC and IFC, which will now become available as part of its $20 core package aimed at cord cutters. In addition, Sling TV customers will also be able to optionally subscribe to a new movie-focused add-on pack called “Hollywood Extra” for $5 per month, which includes content from EPIX and Sundance TV. Specifically, the “Hollywood Extra” pack brings in content from EPIX, EPIX2, EPIX3, and EPIX Drive-In, the company says. The pack also introduces a replay feature which will allow viewers the ability to watch programming that’s up to a week old on demand, as an alternative to using a DVR.


Netflix inks documentary deal with Leonardo DiCaprio – Netflix is continuing to add to its slew of original content. Netflix announced a new deal with Leonardo DiCaprio to exclusively air his future documentary projects. This is not Netflix first venture with DiCaprio. Leonardo DiCaprio was the executive producer on his previous collaborations with Netflix, Virunga. Leonardo DiCaprio executive produced the Netflix collaboration Virunga, which is a documentary about protecting a group of endangered gorillas in the midst of the bloody Congo civil war. Netflix and DiCaprio’s future offerings will likely play along the same themes of environment and conservation.

Here be dragons: HBO Go finally lands on the PS4 – It might almost be over in the real world, but winter is coming to your current gen PlayStation console today. Almost a year in the making, Sony has announced that, finally, the intersection of PlayStation 4 owners and HBO subscribers will be able to get access to the HBO Go streaming service. This further transforms the gaming device into an all purpose home entertainment system. And just in time for the next season of everyone TV guessing game “Who Will GRRM Kill Next”!


Xbox caters to Twitch and YouTube streamers with upcoming Windows 10 app – Microsoft has big plans to bring gaming on Windows 10 and Xbox One closer together. One key to that strategy is the Xbox app the company announced back in January, which lets you access Xbox Live features from your PC. And after checking out a demo of the app at GDC in San Francisco, one thing is pretty clear: Microsoft is trying to tap into the booming market of Twitch game streamers and YouTube personalities. Given the booming popularity of gaming personalities on YouTube and Twitch, it seems like an obvious move for Microsoft, and the new app will even recommend popular broadcasters for your favorite games as new Xbox Live friends.

March PlayStation Plus Free Games Lineup Revealed – Heads up, PlayStation gamers. Sony on Tuesday finally announced the March PlayStation Plus lineup of free games, which should be available now. On PlayStation 4, you’ll receive the side-scrolling adventure title Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee — New ‘n’ Tasty!, which marks the return of a PlayStation classic with “new visuals, new sound, enhanced controls, and even more dark humor than before,” Sony’s Sid Shuman, wrote in a blog post. Also coming to the PS4 lineup is Valiant Hearts: The Great War, a colorful puzzler that “follows four intersecting lives (and a loyal canine companion) during the first World War.”

Off Topic (Sort of):

Parrot Bebop Drone Review: A Keen Eye In The Sky Without A Huge Price Tag – Parrot has a brand new drone on the market, featuring a 1080p video camera that captures motion at 30FPS, and that can take stills at 14MP. The camera has built-in stabilization, letting it avoid the kinds of shakes and jitters that can normally add up to nausea when dealing with moving camera, and has a Wi-Fi flight range of up to 1.2 miles when flown connected directly to the new Skycontroller hardware control accessory. Embedded GPS completes the picture for a far-ranging quadcopter with plenty of amateur film-making potential.


A simple injection could one day stop people from bleeding to death – Blood loss kills a lot of people; one-third of deaths related to traumatic injuries are caused by bleeding. But a lab-made polymer could change that, as it was able to stop bleeding in rats whose femoral artery was cut, according to a study published today in Science Translational Medicine — the procedure essentially saved their lives. In the study, researchers made a 3-millimeter cut in the femoral artery of 40 rats. Of those rats, about half were given an injection of the polymer solution as they were bleeding out. The rats that didn’t receive the drug do very well — over 50 percent of them died. But “100 percent of the rats treated with the polymer survived…

New York City Schools Will Now Observe Two Muslim Holidays – More than 1 million New York City kids will now get school off in observance of two Muslim holy days. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the addition of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha to the New York City School District’s holiday calendar Wednesday. Eid al-Fitr is celebrated at the end of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha is also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice and celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ibrahim. Both days are observed by Muslims worldwide.

Paul Allen hunts down sunken Japanese WWII super-battleship – A team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has located the final resting place of monster Japanese battleship Musashi, some 70 years after she was consigned to the depths off the Philippines during the 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf. The discovery marks the end of an eight-year search for the sunken behemoth, according to Allen’s website, which explains: “The ship was sunk during World War II and, despite numerous eyewitness accounts, the exact location of the ship was unknown.”


Earth’s mysterious ‘second moon’ and its odd orbit – It sounds like one of those crazy conspiracy theories: There are aliens at Area 51. Abraham Lincoln was a lizard. The Earth has a second, secret moon. However, the last of these is actually pretty widely repeated in scientific circles, though only with a very colloquial definition for the word “moon.” First, a quick explanation of why Cruithne is not actually a moon, then an explanation of why many refuse to accept that fact. It’s not a moon because, well, it’s an asteroid. Cruithne orbits the Sun, not the Earth, and its seemingly wonky orbital pattern is definitely not tied to the Earth’s in any satellite-like fashion. By no means is Cruithne actually a secondary body orbiting the Earth — so why is it so often referred to that way?

cruithne 2

Ferguson cops “routinely” block public from filming them, DOJ says – The Department of Justice issued a scathing report Wednesday concerning Missouri’s Ferguson Police Department, the agency that was cleared in this summer’s shooting death of an 18-year-old African-American boy named Michael Brown. The DOJ investigation in the aftermath of the shooting found systematic excessive force and racism—but it also discovered that the police department took a constitutionally suspect hard line against people trying to film officers in the field—all in the name of “officer safety.” One man in a wheelchair filming a protest was arrested, the DOJ report said. Attorney General Eric Holder labeled the DOJ report “searing.”

Something to think about:

“Weakness is what brings ignorance, cheapness, racism, homophobia, desperation, cruelty, brutality, all these things that will keep a society chained to the ground, one foot nailed to the floor.”

–     Henry Rollins

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

EFF writes a very angry letter asking United Nations to write a very angry letter to the US – The Electronic Frontier Foundation thinks the United Nations needs to get its arse in gear and safeguard people’s privacy from government snoops.

The activist group (EFF) said an independent expert should be appointed by the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) to tackle blanket surveillance and the gathering of people’s private and sensitive data by nation states (cough, cough, America).

Currently, says the EFF, the UN does not have adequate measures in place to ensure people have a decent amount of privacy from the powers that be – and judging by Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA spying, there’s no such thing as privacy if Uncle Sam has an interest in you.

“Privacy is an independent right, enshrined in a variety of international human rights treaties,” wrote EFF international rights director Katitza Rodriguez.

“There is a pressing need to better articulate the content of this right as part of international human rights law and produce guides on its interpretation, particularly as modern technologies are enabling communications surveillance—and consequent interference with this right—on an unprecedented and damaging scale.”

To that end, the group is joining a global effort to push the UN for the establishment of a formal Special Rapporteur role on the HRC. The EFF and 62 other non-government organizations have produced a letter [PDF] that they plan to send to the UN.

The Ferguson Report Shows Exactly What Living in a Police State Is Like – On Tuesday, several media outlets began leaking bits of information from the report from the federal probe on the Ferguson Police Department, which has been eagerly awaited since the probe was launched last September. Today, the report was officially released, and it details how city officials and police officers systematically and routinely violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights of citizens, motivated both by the desire to increase revenue and, of course, straight-up bigotry.

Although there are 54 officers in the Ferguson Police Department, only four are African American. This is largely out of step with the city’s population, which has changed greatly in the past 20 years to become 67 percent black. Although we knew before today that the Department of Justice was going to slam Ferguson, we now know for sure that, for example, “partly as a consequence of city and FPD priorities, many officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominately African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue,” as the report’s authors put it.

We also now have specific examples of what it’s like to be black and live there—and it sounds a lot like being a character in a dystopian novel. According to the report, cops in Ferguson regularly engaged in “ped checks” or “Terry stops”—slang for stopping and searching people for no discernible reason. Here’s one of many instances the DOJ found in which citizens were treated like dollar signs by cops:

In the summer of 2012, a 32-year-old African-American man sat in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a Ferguson public park. An officer pulled up behind the man’s car, blocking him in, and demanded the man’s social security number and identification.

Without any cause, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, referring to the presence of children in the park, and ordered the man out of his car for a pat-down, although the officer had no reason to believe the man was armed. The officer also searched the man’s car. The man objected, citing his constitutional rights.

In response, the officer arrested the man, reportedly at gunpoint, charging him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. One charge, Making a False Declaration, was for intitially providing the short form of his first name (e.g. “Mike” instead of “Michael”). and an address which, although legitimate, was different from the one on his driver’s license. Another charge was for not wearing a seat belt, even though he was seated in a parked car. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in his possession.

The man lost his government contracting job as a result of the arrests, according to the report.

Email warned would-be FBI surveillance program whistleblower of retaliation – An email warned an FBI agent, a would-be FBI surveillance program whistleblower, that reporting abuse of authority could bring down the retaliation hammer, even though that’s illegal. A Senate committee heard testimony today about the FBI’s ongoing war on whistleblowers.

When an FBI agent wanted to blow the whistle about a “secret terrorism and counterintelligence surveillance program,” the FBI flat-out warned him that the retaliation hammer could come down on him. “This whistleblower works in one of the FBI’s ‘G-teams,’ which investigate counterterrorism cases, a topic on which the FBI is notoriously resistant to whistleblower complaints,” reported the Washington Times.

An email to the would-be FBI “G-team” whistleblower was obtained and validated by the Washington Times. It stated:

“The main question would turn on the reasonableness of your belief; that is, would a reasonable person, in your situation, believe that the conduct at issue demonstrated mismanagement or abuse of authority?” the FBI attorney, within the Office of Integrity and Compliance, wrote in an email responding to the whistleblower’s inquiry. “In my opinion, yes.”

Then came the kicker: “I’m sure you know, though, this does not guarantee that you will not be retaliated against, even though retaliation/reprisal for making protected disclosures is illegal,” the attorney concluded in the August email to the whistleblower.

In the past, the DOJ dismissed 44 of 62 FBI whistleblower complaints for allegedly failing to meet regulatory requirements, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) whistleblower protection report (pdf). 17 were kicked aside due to faulty chain of command issues, because the would-be whistleblower made the complaint to someone “not authorized” for the disclosure; the report added that a mere nine FBI officials are “formally designated” to receive whistleblower complaints. It also took the DOJ two to 10.6 years to resolve four complaints.

New Zealand Spies on Neighbors in Secret Five Eyes Global Surveillance – New Zealand’s electronic eavesdropping agency is spying on its neighbors and sharing communications it intercepts in bulk with the National Security Agency through a controversial Internet mass surveillance system, according to newly revealed secret documents.

Government Communications Security Bureau, New Zealand’s equivalent of the NSA, has been sweeping up the data from across the Asia-Pacific region, targeting island nations such as Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga and France’s overseas territories New Caledonia and French Polynesia. Each of these small nations and territories maintains friendly relations with New Zealand.

The surveillance, reported Wednesday by the New Zealand Herald in collaboration with The Intercept, is being carried out by GCSB from an intelligence base in New Zealand’s Waihopai Valley (pictured above). Intercepted data collected at the Waihopai site is being shared through an NSA surveillance system called XKEYSCORE, which is used to analyze vast amounts of emails, internet browsing sessions and online chats that are intercepted from some 150 different locations worldwide.

The documents on the spying, obtained by The Intercept from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, shine a light on New Zealand’s role in the so-called Five Eyes, a surveillance alliance that includes electronic eavesdropping agencies from New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Tom Ridge Can Find Terrorists Anywhere – One of the problems with our current discourse about terrorism and terrorist policies is that the people entrusted with counterterrorism — those whose job it is to surveil, study, or defend against terrorism — become so consumed with their role that they literally start seeing terrorists everywhere. So it comes as no surprise that if you ask Tom Ridge, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, about potential terrorism risks at a new LA football stadium, of course he finds them everywhere.

From a report he prepared — paid, I’m sure — about the location of a new football stadium:

Specifically, locating an NFL stadium at the Inglewood-Hollywood Park site needlessly increases risks for existing interests: LAX and tenant airlines, the NFL, the City of Los Angeles, law enforcement and first responders as well as the citizens and commercial enterprises in surrounding areas and across global transportation networks and supply chains. That risk would be expanded with the additional stadium and “soft target” infrastructure that would encircle the facility locally.

To be clear, total risk cannot be eliminated at any site. But basic risk management principles suggest that the proximity of these two sites creates a separate and additional set of risks that are wholly unnecessary.

In the post 9/11 world, the threat of terrorism is a permanent condition. As both a former governor and secretary of homeland security, it is my opinion that the peril of placing a National Football League stadium in the direct flight path of LAX — layering risk — outweigh any benefits over the decades-long lifespan of the facility.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 4, 2015

Survey: Hardly Anybody Uses a Password Manager;  The Best iPhone Apps of the Week;  How to Get Bluetooth to Actually Work;  Five obscure Android apps that should be on your must-use list;  Mass infection malware attack targets Android;  Chromebook: How to run Windows programs in a browser tab for free;  Five kits for building drones, gadgets and robots with your Raspberry Pi;  Flaw in GoPro update mechanism reveals users’ Wi-Fi passwords;  BitTorrent Sync 2.0 adds pro features;  Alibaba Is Expanding Its Cloud Services To The U.S.  Mysterious Android App Emails Your Location to Creepers;  Some Bloggers Really Piss Me Off – Lucy Is One;  Global experiment exposes the dangers of using Wi-Fi hotspots.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Survey: Hardly Anybody Uses a Password Manager – Once you’ve installed a password management tool, you only have to remember one password. So how come the vast majority of consumers still rely on bad passwords and sticky notes? The survey evaluated password practices in the U.S. and U.K. by polling 1,000 consumers. It evaluated how well participants hewed to correct password practices such as using a different password for every site, creating strong, unguessable passwords, and changing passwords every month or two. The results? Well, what did you expect? Passwords: they’re doing it wrong. Siber Systems, the survey’s sponsor, offers the well-known RoboForm password manager. While RoboForm is one of our recommended best password managers, others have rated even better. If money is tight, don’t fret. We’ve also identified the best free password managers. So, if you’re not using a password manager, start now! Don’t be one of the 92 percent whose passwords are painfully lame.

Paperspace Lets Anyone Access A Better Personal Computer That Lives In The Cloud – Imagine never having to buy new and expensive hardware to upgrade your personal computer with more speed and storage space. That’s the vision behind Y Combinator-backed Paperspace, a new company launching today, which is building a full, personal computer that lives in the cloud, which you access from any web browser. Today, there are number of solutions for accessing computing power via the cloud thanks to companies like Amazon and others, but these services require users to be more technical in order to get started. Paperspace is different because it’s aiming to wrap up a similar service in terms of accessing a remote, cloud computer, but offering it through an easy-to-use console where everyday consumers can just click a button to log into their upgraded, more powerful remote machine.


The Best iPhone Apps of the Week – It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found some apps actually worth downloading.

When words won’t cut it, express yourself with reaction GIFs – When you really want to get your point across, nothing beats a hilarious little video clip. Here’s how to find them and use them.

Pointing up     Or, make your own. Checkout today’s free downloads for an open source GIF application with surprising functionality.

How to Get Bluetooth to Actually Work – While the most recent updates to Bluetooth technology have added better pairing, increased range and lowest-ever power usage, you may still encounter the odd obstacle when getting set up. Troubleshoot your Bluetooth connection with these tips and let us know how they work for you in the comments.

Five obscure Android apps that should be on your must-use list – If you’re an Android user, you know the Google Play Store is filled with apps — many of which are outstanding, but some of which… are not. Finding a few of the hidden, lesser-known gems isn’t a terribly challenging task, but it can take a while. So to save you a bit of time, I searched the Play Store and came up with five apps you may never have heard of but might benefit from using. Let’s see if any of them fits your bill.

5 TV antenna tricks for the modern-day cord cutter – When I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone had cable, and owning a TV antenna meant you were stuck in the past. But with the rise of cord cutting, the lowly over-the-air antenna has experienced a rebirth. More than just an old-school way to get basic channels like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, an HD antenna can pair with all kinds of high-tech hardware, unlocking capabilities that were never possible before. If you’ve ditched cable TV and are using an antenna for over-the-air channels, here are five ways to take it to the next level:

Strip search: Meet the Calvin and Hobbes search engine – If you are serious fan of Bill Watterson’s classic comic strip, then you need to be made aware of the existence of the Calvin and Hobbes search engine created by Michael Yingling. It lets you search by keyword, so you can find the strips, for example, that have Calvin and Hobbes waking up to a snow day, battling Calvin’s nemesis Susie, or seeing the world via Calvin’s alter ego Stupendous Man. You must use an exact phrase when searching by keyword, and you can also search by date.

Google Contacts gets fresh design, better tool for dealing with duplicates – Google is cleaning up your contacts. Today, the company teased out a preview of its new and improved Contacts page, where you view and manage the people, phone numbers and email addresses in your Google account. It looks a whole lot cleaner and promises to help make getting rid of duplicate entries easier.

You can now embed OneNote images, tweets, and YouTube into Microsoft’s Sway – Microsoft said Tuesday that it has greatly expanded the types of content and sources that can be embedded into its Sway tool, with an eye toward OneNote. And, just for fun, you can embed other Microsoft Sways into your Sways, as well. Microsoft has also bumped up its suggested search terms to include tweets and YouTube videos, allowing any Sway user to embed a wealth of content in new Sways.

Chromebook: How to run Windows programs in a browser tab for free – Most of the time we focus on helpful tips for Windows users, but today’s article will also appeal to anyone with a Chromebook. A company named Cameyo is known for its software that lets you run Windows program from a USB stick, but it also offers a virtualization service that lets you run full-blown Windows desktop programs in a browser for free. Cameyo isn’t perfect. Virtual programs tend to run slowly, some don’t work at all, and using personal files with the apps is not as obvious as it could be. Nevertheless, Cameyo can come in handy in a pinch when you’re away from your primary PC. Here’s how it works.


Twitter CFO floats idea of newspaper-like ‘daily edition’ – People already check Twitter to see what’s happening. But news junkies who follow lots of accounts may have dozens if not hundreds of tweets to comb through every morning. Twitter thinks it can address this, partly by better organizing the content posted to its site and presenting it in new ways.

Five kits for building drones, gadgets and robots with your Raspberry Pi – A selection of kits that make it easier to build your first gadget with the $35 Linux board.


BitTorrent Sync 2.0 adds pro features – More than two years after its initial public release, BitTorrent Sync has been updated to version 2.0 and dropped its “beta” designation. Based on the peer-to-peer BitTorrent protocol, it enables users to securely sync folders among their own devices and share them with other users, without relying on cloud servers like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple’s iCloud Drive. Although the software remains free, version 2.0 adds an optional Pro tier—aimed primarily at business users—with extra convenience features and access controls, for $40 per user per year (with volume discounts for more than five licenses). All users of BitTorrent Sync 2.0 get 30 days of free access to the Pro features.

No reboot patching comes to Linux 4.0 – One reason to love Linux on your servers or in your data-center is that you so seldom needed to reboot it. True, critical patches require a reboot, but you could go months without rebooting. Now, with the latest changes to the Linux kernel you may be able to go years between reboots.


Mass infection malware attack targets Android – AdaptiveMobile uncovered one of the single largest messaging-initiated mobile malware outbreaks. The malware, dubbed Gazon, which uses victims’ mobile phone contacts to propagate, sends messages to their contacts linking to offers for spoof Amazon vouchers, which when opened, installs malware to their Android device. The attack, which went live on the 25th February and originated in the US, has infected thousands of mobile devices in more than 30 countries around the world, including Canada, UK, France, India, Korea, Mexico, Australia and the Philippines.


Flaw in GoPro update mechanism reveals users’ Wi-Fi passwords – A vulnerability in the update mechanism for the wireless networks operated by GoPro cameras has allowed a security researcher to easily harvest over a 1,000 login credentials (including his own). The popular rugged, wearable cameras can be controlled via an app, but in order to do so the user has to connect to the camera’s Wi-Fi network. Israel-based infosec expert Ilya Chernyakov discovered the flaw when he had to access the network of a friend’s camera, but the friend forgot the login credentials.

Mysterious Android App Emails Your Location to Creepers – Smartphones have brought us wonderful things, such as Snapchat, Flappy Bird, and the ever present fear that someone might be tracking our every move. This week, researchers at Malwarebytes  tipped us off to a malicious Android app that emails your location to an unseen operator. It’s scary and it’s called Spy.MailGPS. Before we dive in, I must note that location tracking is a huge issue on all smartphones. Smartphone makers and app developers have come under fire for accidentally exposing users’ location, and for harvesting that same information. It’s a problem that’s not going away, but MailGPS is much scarier.

US air traffic control computer system vulnerable to terrorist hackers – The US system for guiding airplanes is open to vulnerabilities from outside hackers, the Government Accountability Office said Monday. The weaknesses that threaten the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to ensure the safety of flights include the failure to patch known three-year-old security holes, the transmission and storage of unencrypted passwords, and the continued use of “end-of-life” key servers. Among the findings:

A Group ‘Hacked’ the NSA’s Website to Demonstrate a Widespread Bug – A group of researchers only needed $104 and 8 hours of Amazon’s cloud computing power to hack the NSA’s website. And their feat was made possible by a bug that, ironically, was practically created by the NSA itself and its anti-encryption policies from 20 years ago. The NSA’s site was just the guinea pig to demonstrate a newly-disclosed internet flaw called FREAK. Now, as crypto expert Matthew Green correctly pointed out, this wasn’t really a “hack.” Mounting a man-in-the-middle attack against is not the same as hacking the NSA (as an always-appropriate XKCD cartoon illustrates).


Global experiment exposes the dangers of using Wi-Fi hotspots – A global Wi-Fi hacking experiment exposed major security issues regarding the browsing habits of users around the globe. Avast mobile security experts traveled to cities in the United States, Europe, and Asia to observe public Wi-Fi activity in nine major metropolitan areas. They were equipped with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop and an application that monitored local Wi-Fi traffic at 2.4 GHz frequency – a free app that is widely available. Because HTTP traffic is unprotected, the Avast team was able to view all of the users’ browsing activity, including domain and page history, searches, personal login information, videos, emails, and comments.

Company News:

Google’s Schmidt meets EU competition chief to discuss antitrust woes – Google chairman Eric Schmidt and other company officials have met with the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to discuss the ongoing antitrust investigation into Google’s search practices. The Monday meeting was the first time Google executives had the chance to talk to Vestager about the antitrust case since she took over from her predecessor, Joaquín Almunia, on Nov. 1 last year.

Alibaba Is Expanding Its Cloud Services To The U.S. To Give Amazon New Competition – Alibaba, the Chinese commerce firm which held the largest IPO in history last year, is bringing cloud computing services in the U.S. after it announced a data center in Silicon Valley. The base — the location of which Alibaba isn’t revealing for security reasons — is the first for its Aliyun division outside of China, where it claims 1.4 million cloud services customers. The company has four data centers in China and one in Hong Kong, and it plans to expand that reach into Europe and Southeast Asia before the end of the year.

BlackBerry CEO: I’m open to creating a tablet again – That’s if CEO John Chen thinks the opportunity is right. “It’s not in the works, but it’s on my mind,” Chen said in an interview at the Mobile World Congress conference here. A BlackBerry tablet could satisfy the needs of a small but fiercely loyal group of productivity-focused customers who have stuck with the struggling smartphone maker and its operating system, potentially giving it a new revenue stream. But there aren’t enough BlackBerry faithful to sustain such a business, especially given the tablet category saw its first year-over-year decline in shipments in the fourth quarter.

Pizza Hut, Visa Experimenting With In-Car Ordering – The pizza maker is working with Visa and tech consultancy Accenture to develop a concept car that will test mobile online purchases on the go. Visa Checkout would be integrated into a car’s dashboard for in-car purchases, like that pizza you want to pick up on the way home. Place your order via voice to make sure you eyes stay on the road. Pizza Hut will provide in-car access to menus, delivery, and pick-up options, while beacon technology will notify Pizza Hut workers when your car is pulling in to the restaurant. It’s just a concept right now, but is on display at MWC in Barcelona.

Apple tops Samsung in quarterly smartphone sales for the first time since 2011 – Apple sold 74.8 million smartphones globally during the fourth quarter, up from 50.2 million in the year-earlier quarter, according to Gartner. Apple’s decision to offer phones with larger screens paid off, the research firm said. U.S. and Chinese buyers are especially keen on the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, said Gartner, adding that demand for the phones is still strong in both countries. The larger screens also gave Apple customers a reason to replace their older phones. Samsung, by comparison, sold 73 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, down from 83.3 million in 2013’s fourth quarter. Samsung had held the quarterly sales title since 2011.

Apple in settlement talks with electric-car battery maker – Lawsuit accused Apple of luring away key engineers to work within a new battery division, fueling speculation that the iPhone maker has ambitions of developing an electric car of its own.

Games and Entertainment:

This is Nvidia Shield: a closer look at the 4K Android TV game console – Nvidia touted three big announces at its GDC 2015 press conference, but all of them center around its latest Shield device: a home console powered by Tegra X1, running Android TV, and capable of playing games like Crysis 3 locally and streaming premium titles through its also-just-announced Grid service. The $199 console itself, coming this May, embodies Nvidia’s design language — sharp edges, a mix of gloss and matte black, a green glow that “cracks” through the front of the system. (The controller, on the other hand, feels like the opposite of all that.) Nvidia has made a lot of promises with the capabilities, and we won’t know how well it’ll make good on those promises until we try it ourselves. But the hardware itself? Here you go!


Crysis 3 on NVIDIA SHIELD with Android TV hands-on – The Android version of Crysis 3 has been revealed, and here it is – in a very early form. This game is set to be released later this year – likely at the same time as the NVIDIA SHIELD home entertainment device – but for now it’s in a very early stage of development. This is not a GRID game – it’s running natively on Android. This is a real-deal Android game we’ll be able to download from Google Play for NVIDIA SHIELD later this year.


Insomniac announces next major DLC for ‘Sunset Overdrive’ – “Sunset Overdrive” will get a new downloadable expansion in less than a month, bringing an entirely new area to the game as well as new weapons and a new traversal mechanic.


Xbox 360 gamers get Preview program; can now reserve their Xbox One Games with Gold – Microsoft is paying attention to Xbox 360 owners, with the company now launching the Xbox 360 Preview Program. Not only that, but 360 gamers can now reserve their Xbox One Games with Gold even if they don’t own the new-gen console. Users on the Xbox 360 that are subscribed to Gold can now start building up their games collection for the Xbox One, even without owning the console. The feature, which recently went live, allows these users to essentially reserve their Free Games with Gold without downloading them.


ARM Ready to Light Up the Gaming World – The U.K. chip maker’s Geomerics subsidiary on Tuesday released Enlighten 3, an advanced, dynamic lighting solution for game engines like Unity 5 and Unreal Engine 3 and 4. Enlighten 3 comes with Forge, an editing tool enabling game developers to “quickly understand the capabilities of Enlighten and rapidly iterate on high-quality, real-time lighting,” ARM said.

Valve Announces Source 2, And It’ll Be Free – It’s been a good week for game developers. Unreal Engine 4 went free. Unity 5 came out, and a massive chunk of its once premium features went free. And now: Valve has just announced Source 2, the next generation of their Source game engine… and sure enough, it’s “free to content developers”.

Off Topic (Sort of):

It’s Still Way Too Easy for Government Employees to Hide Official Conversations – Think Hillary Clinton was the first government employee to be caught using a personal email account to conduct official business? Government employees have been doing this sort of thing for years. Both the US and Canadian governments have information laws that require government correspondence to be logged, retained, and made available to the public through Freedom of Information or Access to Information laws, respectively. But both governments make skirting these requirements surprisingly easy, and in some cases, employees are only too happy to do so.

Petraeus plea deal reveals two-tier justice system for leaks – The deal brokered by federal prosecutors with the former general and CIA director is another example of a senior official being slapped on the wrist for serious violations while lesser officials are harshly prosecuted for relatively minor infractions.

Some Bloggers Really Piss Me Off – Lucy Is One – One of the first blogs I go to every day is Bill Mullins’ page. He is a wealth of knowledge and each day he gives me links that I follow up on. Bill’s March 3rd page led to stuff written by Lucy Steigerwald, a writer that pisses me off because of the crap she lays out for people to read. Everybody knows there are good cops and bad cops – same with plumbers, photographers, electricians and every other known category of professions. Lucy writes stuff to incite the reader. Just like newspapers that write about cops only to sell newspapers or news agencies that follow incidents about police activity only to incite their viewers with “their angle” on a story. A lot of the time, before the full facts of the incident come to light. What I Learned Writing About Bad Cops for a Year and a Half is an example of this broad’s work. I hate linking to her stuff as I am pro cop. Obviously Lucy is not as she has chosen to post stories about cops first to earn a living and second, to incite her readers – just look below at her bio.

Ferguson police showed patterns of racial bias for years, says Justice Department – The Ferguson Police Department violated the constitutional rights of the city’s black residents for years, says a Department of Justice report expected to be released tomorrow. Federal investigators found that, well before the shooting death of Michael Brown last year, police activity in Ferguson, Missouri, was fueled by racial discrimination against the predominantly black population, resulting in unjustified traffic stops, arrests without probable cause, and the use of excessive force.

The Fogo smart flashlight is a survivalist’s dream tool – After turning heads and bagging multiple accolades at CES in January, the Fogo flashlight is now trying to charm the Kickstarter community into loosening its purse strings to the tune of $125,000. Truth be told, calling it a flashlight would be a bit unfair to both Fogo and flashlights. Because the Fogo aspires to be a digital Swiss army knife, cramming into its IPX8-rated waterproof frame a 1000-lumen flashlight, GPS receiver, backlit LCD display, Bluetooth LE, 128MB flash storage, accelerometer, magnetometer, “bicycle computer,” and much more. Further, Fogo’s lone USB port is intended to function as a hardware expansion slot that’ll let users attach purpose-built accessories.


Three steps to weasel-woodpecker acceptance – It’s hard not to question the veracity of this image. You mumble “photoshop” as you look at it. Fortunately, the internet has answers: this is the real deal. A man by the name of Martin Le-May took a series of pictures of the pair when he heard distress calls from the bird — a European green woodpecker — in Hornchurch Country Park in East London, according to NBC. You finally accept that it’s real. After all, this has happened before.


You finally accept that it’s real. After all, this has happened before.


Cutting the final cord: How wireless power and wireless charging works – In the 1890s, Nikola Tesla captured the imagination of the world with his invention of the Tesla coil, a device that could transmit electricity through the air, no wires required. More than 100 years later, the world has responded by adapting this breakthrough technology… mainly to recharge their electric toothbrushes. How will your phone, your lights, and even your electric car someday be powered without a wire? Here’s a primer on how wireless power works.

Something to think about:

“Wrong’ is one of those concepts that depends on witnesses.”

–    Scott AdamsDilbert, 11-05-09

Today’s Free Downloads:

ScreenToGif - This tool allows you to record a selected area of your screen and save as a Gif.


Record your screen and save directly to a gif looped animation.

Pause and continue to record.

Move the window around to record what you want.

You can add Text, Subtitles and Title Frames.

Edit the frames, add filters, revert, make yoyo style, change frame delay, add border, add progress bars.

Export frames.

Crop and Resize.

You can work even while the program is recording.

Remove frames that you don’t want.

Select a folder to save the file automatically or select one before enconding.

Add the system cursor to your recording.

Very small sized, portable and multilanguage executable.

Start/Pause and stop your recording using your F keys.

Multi language: Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Greek, French, Simplified Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese and Tamil.

GreenScreen unchanged pixels to save kilobytes.

You can apply actions/filters to selected frames.

Fullscreen Recording.

Snapshot Mode.

Drag and Drop to add frames in the editor.

Pointing up   I often use this open source application to play around and have a little fun. It’s a neat little app with enormous capabilities.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Privacy advocates find Obama proposal lacking – A consumer privacy proposal from U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration gives people too little control over their personal data and companies too much latitude to use that information, a coalition of 14 privacy and digital rights groups said.

The Obama administration’s consumer privacy bill of rights, released late Friday, allows companies holding personal data to determine whether consumers should be able to demand changes to the information, the groups said in a letter to Obama, sent Tuesday.

The White House proposal contains several “shortcomings,” said the groups, including the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumer Watchdog, Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

You Can Now Easily Send Encrypted Texts to Anyone, and the NSA Is Gonna Hate It – The NSA is not thrilled about the fact that encrypted communications are becoming easier and more widespread than ever before. Its director, Admiral Mike Rogers, said as much last week during a cybersecurity event in Washington, D.C., where he joined the FBI in asking for a “legal framework” by which government agencies can insert backdoors into commonly used communications software.

So chances are, NSA and co. are not going to like Si​gnal, a cross-platform app that now lets you send encrypted text, picture and video messages to virtually anyone with a smartphone.

The free app is made by Open Whisper Systems, makers of TextSecure and Redphone, which allow Android users to send end-to-end encrypted texts and calls, respectively. That means that short of someone hacking your phone and stealing your encryption keys, no one—not even the app’s creators—can eavesdrop on your calls and texts.

We Give Up Our Data Too Cheaply – Our data has enormous value when we put it all together. Our movement records help with urban planning. Our financial records enable the police to detect and prevent money laundering. Our posts and tweets help researchers understand how we tick as a society. There are all sorts of creative and interesting uses for personal data, uses that give birth to new knowledge and make all of our lives better.

Our data is also valuable to each of us individually, to keep private or disclose as we want. And there’s the rub. Using data pits group interest against self-interest, the core tension humanity has been struggling with since we came into existence.

The government offers us this deal: if you let us have all of your data, we can protect you from crime and terrorism. It’s a rip-off. It doesn’t work. And it overemphasizes group security at the expense of individual security.

The bargain Google offers us is similar, and it’s similarly out of balance: if you let us have all of your data and give up your privacy, we will show you advertisements you want to see—and we’ll throw in free web search, e-mail, and all sorts of other services. Companies like Google and Facebook can only make that bargain when enough of us give up our privacy.

Canada turfed out more spies to the U.S. than elsewhere – New figures show Canada has turfed out five spies in the past decade from a surprising source country — its best friend and ally, the United States.

From 2004 to 2014 Ottawa sent back to the U.S. five of a total of 21 of those barred from Canada “on security grounds for engaging in an act of espionage that is against Canada or that is contrary to Canada’s interests,” according to a document produced by Canada Border Services Agency.

It’s not clear whether the espionage was by foreign government agents or whether it was industrial espionage — that is, spying to obtain state secrets or spying that targeted intellectual property or corporate secrets.

James Clapper: Kill the Patriot Act, But Don’t Blame Me If Another 9/11 Happens – Go ahead and let one of the most embattled provisions of the Patriot Act expire, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says. Just don’t blame the NSA when another terrorist attack happens, he says.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act is the bit of the law that allows the FBI and the NSA to scoop up mass telephone records from American accounts. The mass collection of “metadata,” which includes the numbers your phone is calling, location information, how long your calls last, and more, was exposed by Edward Snowden’s very first revelations roughly two years ago, and has since become a prime target of NSA reform bills.

President Obama, in fact, restricted the amount and types of records that could be scooped up by intelligence agencies. The Obama administration came to the conclusion that metadata hasn’t prevented even one single terrorist attack. Metadata, meanwhile, can be used to spy on you, which is why many civil liberty types, and, indeed, some in Congress, would rather it go away altogether.

“I hope everyone involved assumes the responsibility and it not be blamed, if we have another failure, exclusively on the intelligence community”

That’s actually set to happen on June 1, when Section 215 will expire. Clapper, speaking today at the Council on Foreign Relations, sounded as though he’s not looking forward to the prospect.

Edward Snowden willing to face trial in U.S. — if it’s fair – Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of the agency’s surveillance programs, is willing to return to the U.S. and face criminal charges, if he’s assured of a fair trial, according to a Russian news report.

Snowden, now living in Russia, is ready to return to the U.S. on the condition that he’s guaranteed a fair trial, Snowden lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told journalists Tuesday, according to a report from Russian news agency TASS.

Several Snowden lawyers are negotiating his return to the U.S., Kucherena said. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised in a letter to Snowden’s lawyers that he would not face a death sentence, Kucherena added.

So far, the Department of Justice has guaranteed Snowden “will not be executed, not that he will receive a fair trial,” the lawyer told reporters.

Snowden continues to work in IT in Moscow and consults with several U.S. companies as well, Kucherena told reporters.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 3, 2015

7 things Net neutrality won’t do;  US court rubber-stamps dragnet metadata surveillance (again);  Meet the free encryption app that promises to put your privacy first;  The 10 Coolest Things the Samsung Galaxy S6 Can Do;  Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone;  How to transfer any media file to your iOS device;  Streaming Music Showdown: Beats vs. Spotify;  New Tinder Charges Whatever It Wants;  Hands on with Outlook for Android;  OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 public beta arrives with Photos;  Here’s the New Camera That Could Kill GoPro;  This browser extension wants to stop you from tweeting something you’ll regret;  D-Link patches router, says more fixes are on the way;  IBM rolls out 3 new iOS-based enterprise apps;  Tor Users Must Now Provide A Phone Number To Open A New Twitter Account;  Netflix to go live in Australia and New Zealand on March 24;   WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

7 things Net neutrality won’t do – One day after the FCC adopted new Net neutrality rules, consumers are left scratching their heads about what it means for their Web-surfing experience. Has anything really changed?

John Oliver mocks Verizon, celebrates Net neutrality decision – Did calling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler a dingo steer the Net Neutrality debate to its conclusion? Ever since comedian John Oliver spent 13 minutes on his HBO show in June explaining his views on this difficult topic — causing the public-comment system on the FCC’s website to crash — there have been mutterings that his intervention was decisive. It was inevitable, therefore, that he might spend a couple of minutes of last night’s “Last Week Tonight” in a mood of celebration.

US court rubber-stamps dragnet metadata surveillance (again) – The decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to green-light the NSA’s mass surveillance of US phone call metadata until 1 June comes a year after President Barack Obama promised to end the controversial programme. The programme has been extended five times in the 14 or so months since. White House officials have repeatedly said they want to be in step with Congress in ending the programme, whose intelligence value has long been criticised by privacy activists.

Google reverses its promise to enable encryption by default in Android Lollipop – The search giant will let phone makers decide whether or not to enable encryption-by-default, saying it will be considered for “future” versions of Android.

Meet the free encryption app that promises to put your privacy first – Peerio is an encrypted messaging and file storage app for Windows, Mac, and the Chrome browsers that takes the likes of Gmail and Outlook, HipChat, and Dropbox to task. The app puts its users in the privacy driving seat, clearly marking for the lay user when something is encrypted. What sets this app apart from most other messaging and file storage services is the enabled-by-default end-to-end encryption, which lets users hold onto the keys. The aim is to make the data unreadable and useless to anyone who might succeed in snatching it.

Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone – In the age of ubiquitous government surveillance, the only way citizens can protect their privacy online is through encryption. Historically, this has been extremely difficult for mere mortals; just watch the video Edward Snowden made to teach Glenn Greenwald how to encrypt his emails to see how confusing it gets. But all of this is quickly changing as high-quality, user-friendly encryption software becomes available. App maker Open Whisper Systems took an important step in this direction today with the release of a major new version of its Signal encrypted calling app for iPhones and iPads. The new version, Signal 2.0, folds in support for encrypted text messages using a protocol called TextSecure, meaning users can communicate using voice and text while remaining confident nothing can be intercepted in transit over the internet.

Tor Users Must Now Provide A Phone Number To Open A New Twitter Account – It isn’t clear whether Twitter is clamping down on Tor because it sees the browser (and its ability to protect a user’s unique IP address) as fertile grounds for trolls. There’s a chance that it may be testing new process that will eventually roll out to all new sign-ups. The problem with this move is that, despite its reputation with some, Tor is not simply a front for illicit activity. Its security (relative to other browsers) is relied on by many operating in legitimate circles, including those working as human rights and security activists. Forcing all new accounts to provide directly identifiable data — such as a phone number — is a risk to those that need to keep a low profile.

Pointing up  Sure, here’s my number.  lol

The 10 Coolest Things the Samsung Galaxy S6 Can Do – The S6 isn’t just the most exciting Android phone, it may be the most exciting of all phones.


You Can Now Embed Twitter Video On Your Website – Twitter has launched an embedding feature for Twitter-hosted videos, letting you put any movies shot using its native video capture and publishing tool on your site, complete with an embed button on Twitter’s on website. Clicking the “Embed Video” option in the “…” expanded options menu from a tweet featuring a native Twitter video will expose a snippet of HTML code, setting it up for a copy and paste into your own site’s HTML or CMS companies window. Here’s how it looks:


How to transfer any media file to your iOS device – Using the Mac app Waltr you can transfer any type of video or music file to your iOS device without the need for a companion iOS app.

Streaming Music Showdown: Beats vs. Spotify – It’s been almost nine months since Apple’s $3 billion purchase of Beats catapulted the Dr. Dre-backed streaming music service into the limelight for casual music listeners. And while Apple is reportedly working on an overhaul of the service, I spent the last nine months as a paid Beats Music subscriber, after having used Spotify exclusively for more than a year. Beyond the music, the differences between the two services are stark. Here is what you need to know in comparing the two most prominent (with apologies to all the other players) streaming music services on the market:

Hands on with Outlook for Android – Microsoft has released an Outlook client for Android. Take a look at how it works.

This browser extension wants to stop you from tweeting something you’ll regret – Twitter can be an innocuous journal of mundane thoughts, a breeding ground for unrestrained hate, or a place where people say really dumb things they will soon regret. A new browser extension wants to help you prevent that feeling of regret by making sure you never tweet the dumb thing in the first place. The extension, created by Carnegie Mellon professor Paolo Pedercini, changes Twitter’s text field prompt from “What’s happening?” to “Remember: you are always one tweet away from being fired.”


New Tinder Charges Whatever It Wants – Tinder’s “Rewind” functionality just went live, finally giving users the ability to go back in time and swipe right instead of left. The “Rewind” feature is included in the premium tier of the service, Tinder Plus, which was unveiled today and costs anywhere between $9.99 and $19.99 in the United States, depending on the age of the user. That’s right. Tinder Plus costs $19.99 for users older than 30, while it costs just $9.99 for folks who are younger than 30.

OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 public beta arrives with Photos – Those who are signed up to be part of Apple’s OS X Beta Program have scored the first public beta for OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 today, perhaps most notable for its inclusion of the new Photos app with which we have previously gone hands-on. That alone is enough to drum up excitement, but the pre-release comes with some other goodies, as well, including those new more diverse emojis and new support for Google’s two-factor authentication account security feature.

Here’s the New Camera That Could Kill GoPro – Xiaomi unveiled its first action camera on Monday, and it beats the entry-level GoPro Hero on both price and specs. The Yi Camera, which will be available in only China, is on sale for 399RMB ($64), about half the price of the $130 GoPro Hero, The Verge reports. The Yi Camera has a 16-megapixel camera that can record 60 frames per second. That trumps the GoPro Hero’s five-megapixel camera, which can record only 30 frames per second.


How to enable Chrome’s clutter-free experimental reading mode – Other browsers have had it for years, but Chrome is finally adding a “Reader mode” that strips down an online article to its most essential parts—images and text—to make it easier to read. The new feature, dubbed Distill, is currently a work in progress but is still worth trying out for full-time Chrome users. Here’s how I enabled the Distill feature in Windows 8.1.


D-Link patches router, says more fixes are on the way – D-Link issued fixes on Monday for flaws that could allow remote access to one of its routers, and will patch several other models in the coming week. The vulnerabilities were found by Peter Adkins, a systems engineer in Canada who said he alerted the company to the issues in early January and decided to publicize them last week after falling out of contact with D-Link. D-Link acknowledges Adkins’ findings in its advisory, which included three new firmware versions for its DIR-820L router. The company expects to release firmware updates in the next week for the DIR-626L, DIR-636L, DIR-808L, DIR-810L, DIR-826L, DIR-830L and DIR-836L.

Mozilla scrubs Superfish certificate from Firefox – Mozilla has released an update to Firefox that erases the self-signed digital certificate implanted by Superfish, the vulnerable adware that blew up in Lenovo’s face a week and a half ago. The update was issued Friday, Feb. 27.

Company News:

Antivirus Maker Avast Is Latest Overseas Tech Firm Blocked In China – Popular security software company Avast is the latest overseas technology company to get caught in China’s censorship net after users began reporting that its service and website were blocked inside the country. Data from shows that has been unavailable in China since Sunday. Users of Avast — which claims over 220 million global users of its antivirus and security products for Windows, Mac and Android — posted screenshots on Weibo, Avast’s forum and other sites showing issues.

Google confirms that it will launch its own wireless service – No matter your opinion of Google, most will agree that Google Fiber is a good thing for not only consumers, but the industry as a whole; as it puts pressure on ISPs and gives consumers another option for broadband. Because of this, hearing that Google is about to launch a wireless service too sounds fantastic, but the end result will likely have less impact than Google Fiber.

PayPal Buys Paydiant, The Mobile Wallet Behind CurrentC, To Raise Its Game v. Google + Apple – PayPal, the payments service with 162 million users preparing to separate from e-commerce giant eBay later this year, is announcing an acquisition today to help build out its mobile business targeting physical merchants, and sharpen its focus in competition with other tech payment hopefuls like Apple and Google. It is buying Paydiant, a startup out of Boston that makes mobile wallet technology. That technology, in turn, powers payment apps for large business like Subway, Harris Teeter supermarkets, Capital One bank, and — perhaps most notably — MCX, a merchant-owned network that is developing a payment app called CurrentC.

IBM rolls out 3 new iOS-based enterprise apps – IBM has unveiled a fresh crop of enterprise apps resulting from the partnership it forged with Apple last year. Announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the three new mobile apps for iOS target the banking, retail and airline industries and join the 10 industry-specific IBM MobileFirst apps that arrived in December.

Judge appears poised to approve Apple, Google anti-poaching settlement – Judge Lucy Koh in August rejected the companies’ initial $324.5 million offer to settle the case accusing four Silicon Valley giants of conspiring to stay away from each other’s employees.

Games and Entertainment:

Celebrate YouTube Music Award Winners With Exclusive Content – Google on Monday announced the winners of its 2015 YouTube Music Awards, which honors the artists that made the biggest splash on the video-streaming site over the last six months. The list of winners includes big names like Beyoncé, Brad Paisley, Ed Sheeran, Hozier, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Manaj, One Direction, Pharrell, Rihanna, Snoop Dogg, and Taylor Swift. Head over to the 2015 YouTube Music Awards channel to see the full list of winners, who collectively pulled in more than 47 billion views over the past six months

Netflix to go live in Australia and New Zealand on March 24 – Summary:Netflix has set a launch date for its service in Australia and New Zealand, and to complement its arrival, it has signed agreements with iiNet, Vodafone New Zealand, and Microsoft Xbox.

Score a $10 Xbox gift card when you pre order games from the Microsoft Store – Earlier today the Microsoft Store tweeted that users could score a $10 Xbox digital gift card when a pre-order of a game is purchased via the Store. The gift does not apply to all games listed here, but you could preorder Halo 5: Guardians, Battlefield Hardline, Rise of the Tombraider or Dead Island 2 among others to qualify for the gift. Most games that include the free gift card range between $39.99 and $59.99, but we found one costing $29.99 called ScreamRide for Xbox 360 that sweetens the deal.

Video Game Guns Get Everything Wrong – There’s no weight, gravity, or consequence to shooting in games, no effort on the behalf of game-makers to appropriate what it takes, both physically and mentally, to fire a gun at a person. All you get are three lousy buttons. After that, you can inflict violence—or at least, fire your weapon—with no fuss or cognition. If we’re talking morality, or even good writing, gaming’s simplified version of shooting does nothing to represent the complexity or horror of real-world violence. If we’re talking what’s fun to play, doing the same thing over and over, without having to think about it, soon grow old. I think games would improve, both in terms of narrative and raw enjoyment, if they obeyed how guns work in reality.


The player’s perspective in 2013’s ‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’

Epic is letting anyone build games with Unreal Engine 4, for free – A year ago, Epic Games decided to cut the amount of revenue it collected from developers who used its Unreal Engine platform and game development tools in an effort to attract smaller developers. But at GDC 2015, Epic is taking things a step further and making Unreal Engine 4 (as well as any future updates) completely free up front to build games with, though it’ll still take a cut of game revenue.

Google API puts games on TV as phone/tablet become controller – Android users might have another reason to want an Android TV soon. Adjunct to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Google is hosting a Developer’s day event, and has announced a new API. Called ‘Nearby Connections’, the API has a few handy tweaks for Developers, and when used properly, you as well. With Nearby Connections, users will be able to use Android devices as game controllers for Android TV-ready games. It’s only available on one game so far, but expect more to follow suit quickly.


New demo shows Firewatch might be a perfect exploration game – Gone Home, a first-person exploration game that hit PCs back in 2013, was a breath of fresh air for gaming in that it demonstrated how to make an affecting game without ever needing a gun. Firewatch looks like its natural successor, as watching 17 minutes of gameplay, courtesy of IGN, is a fascinating and singularly engrossing introduction into the life of a fire lookout. Firewatch is being developed by San Francisco-based out Campo Santo, which is comprised of folks who helped develop The Walking Dead Season 1 at TellTale Games, as well as minimalist artist Olly Moss, whose work you might recognize from a few certain Star Wars posters.


Play the Best New iPhone Puzzle Games – Looking for a new iPhone game a little more mentally stimulating than Angry Birds? Try one of these five puzzle games, sure to confound and delight you.


Under the Sun

Google Launches New Analytics, Monetization Tools For Android Game Developers – Google today announced a couple of new tools for game developers on its Android platform. These include new analytics to help developers better understand in-game player behavior, as well as a number of new monetization features through its AdMob platform. Google also launched a new game-centric Nearby Connections API for Android TV, its nascent smart TV platform.

Off Topic (Sort of):

What I Learned Writing About Bad Cops for a Year and a Half – The problems facing law enforcement and its relationship with the public are enormous, and they’re divided into poisonous, spiny slices. It’s not just local police, and it’s not just federal authorities. It’s local cops, and it’s federal money. It’s dangerous and unnecessary laws against vices like drugs, prostitution, and gambling—and it’s the conduct of individual bad cops. It is mission creep. It is excess war gear going to police departments, and it is the feeling that police are at war with the people whom they ostensibly serve. It is police who don’t understand mental illness, or physical disabilities such as deafness—or rather, it is police who pull the trigger too quickly on even suspects who don’t understand what’s happening.

Future-proof your IT career: 8 tech areas that will still be hot in 2020 – Sure, organizations will still need programmers and developers, but they’ll want (and pay better salaries to) programmers who know how to work with robots and developers who know how to apply their craft to wearable devices. So, yes, while labor market experts expect that IT as a whole will continue to add good jobs through 2020 and beyond, savvy tech pros are taking pains to ensure their personal road map is steering them towards concentrations with maximum longevity. What follows are some specialties worth pursuing to future-proof your tech career.


Image courtesy Thinkstock

Google Street View Now Lets You Explore The Amazon Jungle Via Zip-Line – That’s right. Google took its cameras and literally suspended them in the rainforest thanks to assistance from the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS). The BBC reports that the cameras traveled as fast as 100 km/hour, that’s around 62 miles/hour. The resulting 360-degree images are a spectacular reminder of the unique experiences that the internet makes possible.


Alligator blood may be our next source of new antibiotics – The key to an alligator’s immune system is the enzymes contained in their blood combined with cationic antimicrobial peptides, or CAMPs for short. The enzymes alone are capable of dealing with 23 different types of bacteria as well as performing well against the HIV virus. However, if you add in the CAMPs found so far, alligators can fend off E.coli, sepsis, food poisoning, and skin infection bacteria. In total 45 peptides have been identified so far from one type of alligator.

This Incredible Photo Of A Baby Weasel Riding A Woodpecker Is Straight Out Of A Children’s Fantasy Book – East London resident Martin Le-May captured this incredible photo of a baby weasel on the back of a green woodpecker in Esssex, England, on Monday. As much as we’d all like to believe this is a wondrous tale of friendship wherein two mates go on an epic adventure featuring a baby weasel and his magnificent flying steed, sadly it’s NOT. It’s a photo of a weasel trying to kill a woodpecker.


Hillary Clinton Only Used Personal Email While Secretary Of State – Clinton used a personal email account to conduct official business despite federal law requiring correspondence be retained by the government, the New York Times reported.

Something to think about:

“Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.”

–      Rabbi Julius Gordon

Today’s Free Downloads:

WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy – WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy is a professional and powerful free DVD ripper software which can rip the content of DVDs.

Convert your DVD to digital video to enjoy your DVD! Just got simpler now! You can watch anytime, anywhere. Alter, enhance, convert – whatever you do – the final result will be in the perfect quality (even in high-definition)! No missing key frames, quality-loss, redraw issues, or crashes.

WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy let you backup a DVD to MPG video within 5 minutes. This is real No. 1 Speed. All of conversions as base on 0-Quality-Loss.

It offers flexible choices to fine-tune and adjust parameters to tailor the output videos, in terms of video audio encoding, bitrate, frame rate, aspect ratio, resolution, audio codec, audio channel number, sample rate, etc. You can customize and apply your own settings to all, you can also save all of settings as a single profile.


iSpy – iSpy uses your webcams and microphones to detect and record movement or sound and provides security, surveillance, monitoring and alerting services. Any media that is captured is compressed to flash video and made available, securely over the web. iSpy can be setup to run on multiple computers simultaneously. iSpy is free, open-source software, so if you want it to do anything else, please download the source code and customise it to your requirements.

With iSpy you can:

Connect and monitor as many cameras and microphones as you like. Import and export object lists to share with colleagues.

Connect multiple computers in a group and manage over the web

Install iSpy Server and publish your webcam to other instances of iSpy, over your network and to the web

Detect, highlight, track and record movement

Detect loitering

Customise movement detection areas on your cameras

Detect and record sound

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is detected

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is not detected (monitor machinery or staff activity)

Receive email movement alerts with attached frame grab images from your webcams

Periodically receive image grabs via email from your webcams

Connect to any device, even webcams attached to other computers with JPEG, MJPEG, IP Cam, webcam and AVI file support

Watch live and recorded media over the web (through this website) and also via mobile devices

Access and control iSpy remotely

Password protect iSpy and hide it in the System Tray

Schedule sound and video capturing to start and stop automatically

Time-lapse record from any camera

Motion track and count moving objects

Connect multiple instances of iSpy and iSpy server running on different computers to this website and view all aggregated media online

Create groups, invite friends and share access to your webcams and microphones

Receive email alerts if your connection goes offline

Download the source code and customise it to your own requirements!


Screen shot from a review I wrote in January 2011.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Bruce Schneier: The Democratization of Cyberattack – The thing about infrastructure is that everyone uses it. If it’s secure, it’s secure for everyone. And if it’s insecure, it’s insecure for everyone. This forces some hard policy choices.

When I was working with the Guardian on the Snowden documents, the one top-secret program the NSA desperately did not want us to expose was QUANTUM. This is the NSA’s program for what is called packet injection–basically, a technology that allows the agency to hack into computers.

Turns out, though, that the NSA was not alone in its use of this technology. The Chinese government uses packet injection to attack computers. The cyberweapons manufacturer Hacking Team sells packet injection technology to any government willing to pay for it. Criminals use it. And there are hacker tools that give the capability to individuals as well.

All of these existed before I wrote about QUANTUM. By using its knowledge to attack others rather than to build up the internet’s defenses, the NSA has worked to ensure that anyone can use packet injection to hack into computers.

This isn’t the only example of once-top-secret US government attack capabilities being used against US government interests. StingRay is a particular brand of IMSI catcher, and is used to intercept cell phone calls and metadata. This technology was once the FBI’s secret, but not anymore. There are dozens of these devices scattered around Washington, DC, as well as the rest of the country, run by who-knows-what government or organization. By accepting the vulnerabilities in these devices so the FBI can use them to solve crimes, we necessarily allow foreign governments and criminals to use them against us.

Australian lawmakers can’t use phones, will vote on data retention – Summary:If MPs can’t even be bothered to learn about the work tools they use every day, what hope is there for intelligent debate on mandatory data retention?

Pointing up   Just one more example of the stupid and the blind leading the uninterested. Uninterested, that is, until it’s too bloody late!

Google gets an early win in fight against Mississippi Attorney General’s subpoena – Google just chalked up an early win against Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, an MPAA-friendly prosecutor who was implicated in a number of Goliath documents. A federal court in Jackson, Mississippi, has granted a preliminary injunction against Hood’s efforts to fight content piracy on Google’s network, restricting any subpoena or further investigative action from Hood while the case is still in progress. It’s still early in the case, but the injunction represents a significant win for Google and a real setback for both Hood and his supporters at the MPAA.

In 2013, Hood sent Google a massive, 79-page subpoena for data related to content piracy in Search, but Google contested the subpoena, claiming it overstepped the attorney general’s authority and violated a number of US privacy laws. Hood had called a “time out” to the legal actions in the aftermath of the Goliath disclosures, but the court case has continued in the months since. Ultimately, Hood was seeking a similar legal authority over Google’s network as SOPA looked to establish, although Hood was pursuing it through judicial rather than legislative channels.

Forget 1,000 lashes for Facebook posts, Saudis now want to behead blogger Raif Badawi – Saudi blogger Raif Badawi – sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for announcing he is an atheist on Facebook – may now be beheaded by his government.

“We have received information from reliable sources that there are attempts within the Penal Court to retry ‪‎Raif Badawi‬ on apostasy charges again,” his wife said in a Facebook posting.

“Apostasy charge is punishable under Saudi law with the death penalty by beheading. We also received confirmed information that the Supreme Court has referred Raif case to the same judge, who sentenced Raif with flogging and 10 years imprisonment.”

The family accuses the judge presiding over the case of bias, saying in an earlier legal judgment that “he has proof and is confident that Raif is an apostate,” and that he had wanted to bring apostasy charges earlier but wasn’t able to under existing Saudi law.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 for running the Liberal Saudi Network message board and making statements on Facebook that broke religious and state laws; specifically expressing support for women’s rights, democratic reform, and stating that he is an atheist.

Pointing up   How, in good conscience, can the West support this medieval torture chamber who’s ultimate goal is the destruction of Western culture – including Christianity. Not that I’m a fan of Christianity – but…


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 2, 2015

The FCC’s net neutrality rules: 5 things you need to know;  Science finds the best place to hide from zombies;  How to report a suicidal post on Facebook;  Google pulls out of gaping Blogger smut black hole;  iOS 8.2 tipped for release on March 2nd;  Prepare your Android device for disasters with this master plan;  Bad with names? 2 Android apps try to help;  Six ways to make your iOS or Android phone easier on the eyes;  Hands On With The Samsung Galaxy S6 And S6 Edge;  Apple products no longer welcome in the Chinese government;  These Are the Best Weather Apps for Your iPhone;  Illustrators Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy;  AVG unveils invisibility glasses;  Man blames third-degree burns on exploding iPhone;  White House Drops ‘Consumer Privacy Bill Of Rights Act’ Draft;  Aomei Partition Assistant (free);  Junkware Removal Tool (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The FCC’s net neutrality rules: 5 things you need to know – Advocates for open access to the Internet were popping champagne corks on Thursday after the Federal Communications Commission voted in favor of reclassifying broadband Internet as a public utility. In addition to regulating fixed broadband lines that go into your home, the FCC vote also extended public utility rules to mobile broadband for the first time. The FCC vote means that Internet service providers (ISPs) will be required by law to respect the principles of net neutrality. But what exactly does that mean, and why are so many people celebrating the FCC’s ruling while others are cursing it? Here’s a quick explainer.

How to report a suicidal post on Facebook – Facebook has launched a new feature aimed directly at helping those who may be going through hard times.

Is it time to force PC makers to disclose how much they make from crapware? – When it preinstalled the Superfish adware on consumer PCs, Lenovo sold its customers out for a pittance, but it still hasn’t had to disclose how much it received. Maybe it’s time for a Truth in Labeling act to shine a light on this dark corner of the PC market.

Google pulls out of gaping Blogger smut black hole – Monday: Get rid of this filth … By Friday: Oh my God, where have ALL the blogs gone? The ad giant on Thursday said it will continue to allow randy netizens to post amateur smut, reversing an earlier decision forbidding X-rated blog posts unless they were deemed arty and acceptable to Mountain View’s censors. Educational posts would have apparently escaped the blog burning, but everything else was to be scrubbed clean from public view. Today, Google has done a full 180 on banishing titillating blogs.

Bad with names? 2 Android apps try to help – Many of us have trouble relating faces to names — which can be disastrous in a business situation. Humin and Social Recall try to help with that.

iOS 8.2 tipped for release on March 2nd – If recent reports are true, Apple may be gearing up to release iOS 8.2 as soon as March 2nd, or this coming Monday. As the latest version of the iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS 8.2 has already seen five developer betas released since November. The new update has already been revealed as containing some support for the Apple Watch, but full compatibility with the wearable may not come until iOS 8.3, which is currently expected to be released in April.

Prepare your Android device for disasters with this master plan – When tragedy strikes your electronic devices (and there’s no way around that inevitability), will you be ready? Will your data be backed up? Will the process of purchasing another phone be as simple as firing it up, associating it with your Google account, and waiting for the data to sync? This master plan will cover backing up: apps, app data, photos, call/SMS logs, and miscellaneous. I want to do this without relying on a single, third-party solution (though there will be third-party solutions to back up the likes of call and SMS logs).

These Apps Will Make Filing Your Taxes Way Less Painful – Let me start by saying that I am not a tax professional. But I am a professional who pays his taxes, and I highly recommend getting expert assistance in navigating the bureaucratic machinations that are the state and federal income tax systems. Still, if you are planning on going it alone (or you want to get organized enough that your accountant doesn’t charge you a bundle), there are many ways technology can help you file your taxes. Let’s take a look:

First look: Vivaldi browser – Vivaldi, a Web browser now in tech preview, caters to power users who expect more from their browsers, letting them interact with content in new and exciting ways. Created by former Opera developers, Vivaldi is built on Chromium, the same platform used for Google Chrome, Comodo Dragon, and, of course, Opera. On the surface, Vivaldi looks similar to other browsers, but a plethora of tools lie beneath that unassuming interface. Here are our six favorites.


Six ways to make your iOS or Android phone easier on the eyes – Even as the displays on our iPhones and Android phones get bigger and bigger, the type on our screens remains stubbornly small—so small, indeed, that you may find yourself squinting whenever you glance at your handset. Give your aching eyes a break. Read on for six settings that’ll make your iPhone or Android screen a bit easier to read, from boosting the size of text to zooming your display with your fingertips.

YO! This messaging app has a lot more to say for itself, even offline – This year showgoers will be able to try out a new Android app, called YO!, that can send text messages, photos and videos over Wi-Fi to other users nearby without any Internet connection whatsoever, making it a true peer-to-peer messaging app. And as long as they’re prepared to disable certain security settings on their phone, they won’t even need to log on to the Play store to get it: Anyone with YO! installed on their phone can share it with other would-be users over Bluetooth.

Rumor: Tinder Plus Launching Monday (for $10/Month) – So, what does the monthly investment get you? For starters, Tinder Plus will come with a somewhat-helpful “Rewind” feature that will allow you to go back and take a second look at the last person you swiped off your screen—a person you were perhaps initially uninterested in, but one who you might suddenly have second thoughts about. (That, or perhaps you were a bit too quick on the trigger finger, and accidentally swipe-declined someone that you would actually be interested in.) Tinder Plus will also remove ads from Tinder—ads that don’t yet exist, but are allegedly going to hit the service this month.

SanDisk new microSD card packs a whopping 200GB of storage – The new card is a 56 percent jump on the current highest capacity MicroSD, a 128GB card. The card supports data transfer at up to 90MB per second, or around 1,200 photos per minute. It will be available worldwide in the second quarter for $400.

Hands On With The Samsung Galaxy S6 And S6 Edge – Samsung has two brand new smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge. It’s a first for the company, in terms of revealing two different versions of its primary flagship on stage at the same time, and we got a chance to try both of them out to see how they perform.  The resulting experience was impressive in both cases, and while the biggest changes were on the design front, Samsung’s software shifts also came out as very promising overall.


$40 Firefox-Powered Orange Klif Also Includes Voice, Text, Data – Before you get too excited, you should know that the Firefox OS-powered Orange Klif smartphone is primarily geared towards Africa. That said, $40 for a smartphone that includes calls, text, and data for six months is still something to get excited about. I got a chance to check it out after Mozilla’s press conference at Mobile World Congress.


Firefox OS coming to U.S., developed markets in 2016 – Firefox OS, the smartphone operating system from Mozilla targeted at low-cost smartphones in emerging markets, is coming to more developed markets. A new project with carriers in the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Spain will see high-spec phones developed for release in 2016. But rather than challenging Android and iOS head on, the project will target something that’s been largely out of fashion in recent years: flip phones and sliders.

Microsoft announces the Lumia 640 and 640 XL – Microsoft has just formally announced the Lumia 640 and 640 XL at their Mobile World Conference 2015 presentation. The smartphones are not exactly high-end, but the specs are pretty interesting.


Microsoft unveils a foldable Bluetooth keyboard – The Lumia 640 isn’t the only hardware device that Microsoft unveiled today, as the company showed off on-stage a foldable keyboard device, designed to be taken on the road.


Brazilian judge rules for a nationwide ban of Whatsapp – A Brazilian judge has ordered a nationwide temporary ban of WhatsApp following the company’s refusal to help in an investigation related to child pornography. Despite the ban, it is working normally.

VLC is now a true Universal App across all of Windows – VideoLAN is likely one of the best builders of quality apps for the Windows Store, and while the development team provides frequent updates to the desktop version of their VLC media player, they usually take their time with the apps. That is not necessarily a bad thing, and today’s news is going to explain that long wait.


AVG unveils invisibility glasses to defend against facial recognition – AVG has unveiled invisibility glasses as a way for people to protect their online identities. Revealed at Pepcom in Barcelona, Spain, the antivirus provider says the privacy wearable can make it more difficult for cameras and facial recognition technologies to get a “clear view of your identity.” Designed by AVG Innovation Labs, the glasses — chunkiness and dubious fashion aside — uses both technology and select materials to blur the gaze of cameras.

Pointing up   Crystal Ball gazing – The fascist crazies, including Australia’s Tony Abbott, Canada’s Stephen Harper, and of course the crazy-in-chief, Barak Obama, will attempt to sabotage this technology. Far fetched? Just wait.

These Are the Best Weather Apps for Your iPhone – Opening this story with a weather-related adage or aphorism would have been great, if Mother Nature’s approval ratings weren’t currently quite so low. But guess what — it’s here, and we’re all white walkers. So don’t bother making chit-chat by talking about the weather, tap about it instead. No matter the conditions, these ten apps will keep you covered, because believe it or not, it can actually get worse than this.


Personal data on 50,000 Uber drivers exposed in breach – Uber discovered a possible breach of its systems in September, and a subsequent investigation revealed an unauthorized third party had accessed one of its databases four months earlier, the company said. The files accessed held the names and license plate numbers of about 50,000 current and former drivers, which Uber described as a “small percentage” of the total. About 21,000 of the affected drivers are in California. The company has several hundred thousand drivers altogether.

How does the security of 3 mag-stripe credit card alternatives stack up? – Several electronic and mobile payment options have become available, but most of us in the U.S. are still using plain-vanilla credit and debit cards with magnetic stripes. They use technology that dates to the first Nixon administration. That’s not a problem in itself; I have no problem with time-tested security measures that work effectively. But just look around: Data breaches are everywhere, and those magnetic-stripe cards are often implicated.

How a Blu-ray disc could install malware on your computer – A pair of vulnerabilities found in hardware and software for playing Blu-ray discs might come in handy for secret snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency. Stephen Tomkinson of NCC Group, a U.K.-based security consultancy, engineered a Blu-ray disc which detects the type of player the disc is running on and then picks one of two exploits to land malware on a computer. He presented the research at the Securi-Tay conference at Abertay University in Scotland on Friday.

National Cyber Awareness System: Vulnerability Summary for the Week of February 23, 2015 – The US-CERT Cyber Security Bulletin provides a summary of new vulnerabilities that have been recorded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) National Vulnerability Database (NVD) in the past week. The NVD is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) / United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). For modified or updated entries, please visit the NVD, which contains historical vulnerability information.

Pointing up   I’ve not linked to this weekly report in the past since I’m not convinced that it necessarily has value for an average user – looks pretty scary close up. Still, if you’re a regular reader here,  I’m hopeful that you’ll balance the incredible daily hype pushed out by the tech industry with the reality of this weekly report. You may find it useful to subscribe to this resource.

It seems to me that at one time, some years back, we were prohibited from publishing this data. But, I’m probably “misremembering” – which seems all the rage these days.   Smile

Company News:

Sailfish Secure wants to be an Android alternative safe from spies’ prying eyes – Keeping your communications locked away from prying eyes, Sailfish Secure is a new version of the niche mobile operating system that’s designed to bring peace of mind to businesses, government officials, and privacy-minded phone fans. Sailfish developer Jolla has partnered with fellow Finns SSH Communications Security to build the privacy-focused software. It’s based on the Jolla’s Sailfish OS, bolstered by SSH’s communication encryption and key management.

Ericsson sues Apple, wants ITC to block iPhone sales in the U.S. Market – This week has not been the best for the Cupertino tech giant, but it’s about to get even worse. Ericsson, world pioneer in mobile technology and wireless communications, is filing seven lawsuits against Apple in a U.S. court, accusing it of infringing on 41 of its patents, including some “that are essential to the 2G and 4G/LTE standards”, as well as patents related to the component design of Apple products, UI, location services, and iOS features. If having to pay half a billion dollars to Smartflash sounds bad, now Ericsson is asking the International Trade Commission to ban sales of Apple’s iPhone and iPad in the U.S. market. Kasim Alfalahi, Ericsson’s chief intellectual property officer, stated that “we have offered them a license; they have a turned it down.”

Google rumoured to have chosen a Chinese OEM for the next Nexus – Google’s Nexus program is set to get a new manufacturer as a latest rumour has revealed that the next smartphone will be made by a Chinese OEM with a probable launch in the second half of the year.

Apple products no longer welcome in the Chinese government – China has dropped some of the big companies from its list of approved technology providers for use in government departments to reduce dependence on American technology.

Google Buys Rights to .App Top-Level Domain for $25M – Google prevailed in ICANN’s public auction for the top-level domain, paying just a hair over $25M for the rights to .app. It’s reportedly the highest purchase price yet paid for a top-level domain in an ICANN auction. It was more more than triple the price of the previous record-holder, Dot Tech LLC and its $6.8 million winning bid this past September for the rights to .tech.

Yahoo gains U.S. search share on the back of Firefox – Since November 2014, when Yahoo partnered with Mozilla to make its search engine the default for U.S. Firefox users, Yahoo’s share has grown by 2.8 percentage points, representing a 28% increase. The continued upward trend in Yahoo’s share identified by comScore was similar to the one drawn by Irish analytics firm StatCounter, which earlier in February pointed to a second-consecutive month of gains by the Sunnyvale, Calif. company.

Google+ divided into Photos and Streams, with new boss – Google’s social network gets a new leader in Brad Horowitz, and likely will see the Hangouts communication service stand alone, too.

Games and Entertainment:

This Is the Incredible Game President Underwood Is Obsessed With in House of Cards Season 3 – Francis Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s Machiavellian character on the Netflix series House of Cards, has always allow himself a few good video games. These have tended toward the violent, first-person shooter variety. But in season three, which became available on the streaming service on Friday, a beautiful, somewhat esoteric indie game for mobile devices becomes a minor plot point. That game is Monument Valley, created by UsTwo. The title—available here for Android and here for iOS— was ranked one of TIME’s 10 best games of 2014.


Mad Catz Surfr combines QWERTY keys with game controls (pictures) – Mad Catz’s latest gaming controller packs a mini QWERTY keyboard for typing to your Android TV box.


HTC partners with Valve for a virtual reality headset—the Re Vive – The Vive appears to be a standalone VR headset for a PC. We don’t know many details about how it works, but HTC says it “features high-quality graphics, 90-frames-per-second video, and incredible audio fidelity.” The headset uses two 1200×1080 displays, one for each eye, and the relatively high resolution should help cut down on the “screen door effect” you got with the original Oculus Rift developer kit. HTC will also be producing “wireless VR controllers” along with the headset. A Developer Edition will be available in the spring, with a Consumer Edition coming “by the end of 2015.”


PC version of latest Resident Evil loses local co-op available on console – Capcom has taken to the Steam Community page for the game to “apologize to our Resident Evil Revelations 2 PC players who purchased the game and expected to have local co-op as a feature.” The company says the local co-op feature was never intended for the PC version, and initially left in the Steam description as an oversight. “This was an unintentional error and again, we apologize for the confusion this may have caused.” While Capcom initially said no such PC co-op was planned, it now says it’s “currently looking into the matter and potential solutions and we hope to have new information to share very soon, so please stay tuned. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

Lego Star Wars TV special to retell entire film saga – Just incase you haven’t had enough collaboration between the Star Wars and Lego franchises yet, a new special from Disney will have re-watching the entire first two trilogies, albeit in plastic brick form. Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales is part of Disney’s effort to promote and draw in new audiences for the December release of the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. Set to premiere on the Disney XD channel, the miniseries will be released as five episodes, each 22 minutes long.


Sid Meier’s Starships hands-on: A stripped down Civ and a complicated board game – Sid Meier’s Starships comes out on March 12, which isn’t that far away. As such, I don’t really want to delve too deeply into the game because, well, I’m going to have to write the whole thing up again in two weeks when we review it. But I did spend about an hour tooling around with a pre-release build earlier this week, and it only seems right to give you an idea how this spin-off strategy game (of sorts) is shaping up.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Illustrators Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy – Leonard Nimoy was the coolest guy ever. In the wake of his passing, a lot of the more obscure things that he did have been brought up. Sure, he anchored Star Trek and was easily the best actor on the original show. He also directed the best Star Trek movie and appeared on bothThe Simpsons and Futurama. He released some notable records and wrote an autobiography called I Am Not Spock which he followed up with I Am Spock. I asked illustrators to draw pictures memorializing the late actor. Here are fifteen. It would have been good if at least one of these drawings didn’t Nimoy as Spock, but it’s fun to draw him as Spock and I think he would have been fine with it.


ISIS Supporters Issue Death Threats Against Jack Dorsey And Twitter Employees – While it is difficult to ascertain if the threat was actually written by people directly involved with ISIS, Twitter is taking it seriously. The company told Buzzfeed that “our security team is investigating the veracity of these threats with relevant law enforcement officials.” TechCrunch has contacted the company for more information and will update this post if we hear back from them. Twitter’s terms of service allow users post “potentially inflammatory content,” but it draws the line at “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” The company has also cooperated with the British government to delete content which violates UK terror laws.


Olixar Light Bulb review: A Bluetooth enabled speaker that also illuminates the room – Olixar brings us an affordable Bluetooth speaker that doesn’t require batteries in a convenient light bulb package. But does it compare to a dedicated Bluetooth speaker? Let’s find out.


Man blames third-degree burns on exploding iPhone – A New Jersey man says that he is unable to work after his iPhone 5C emitted a popping noise and caused a burning sensation in his pocket. Johnson reportedly spent 10 days in a burn unit. He had second- and third-degree burns on the inside of his thigh.


A little too close to “home”, I’d say!    Smile

IKEA announces tables, lamps with wireless charging – We might be in the midst of the wearables boom right now, but a safe bet for the next technology to take off in the next few years is wireless charging. Thanks to features from a handful of smartphone manufacturers, as well as several charging accessory makers, wireless charging seems prime to be popular among consumers. Furniture retailer IKEA is betting on it, as they’re just announced a new line of lamps and tables that feature integrated wireless charging.

Science finds the best place to hide from zombies – When the undead threaten to turn your cerebrum to caviar, where do you run? A new study confirms what you might already suspect, and even offers a specific destination.

Something to think about:

“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a lifetime’s experience.”

–    Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Aomei Partition Assistant – Partition Assistant is a comprehensive disk partition solution, which includes a Partition Manager and Extend Partition Wizard for Windows 7/XP/2000/Vista and Server 2008/2003/2000. Besides, the magic partition utility can support all hard disks recognized by Windows such as IDE, SATA, SCSI, Hardware RAID, USB external disks, Fire wire disks etc. Partition Assistant provides powerful and professional features to manage disk partition including:

Extend NTFS system partition without restarting computer.

Resize and Move partition to optimize disk space management.

Extend Partition Wizard help you step by step expand the size of your selected partition.

Merge two or more partitions into a larger one.

Split one partition into two or more.

Create, Delete and Format partition.

Convert file system from FAT to NTFS.

Wipe permanently sensitive data to anti-recovery.

Repartition by drag & drop mouse on a disk panel.

Partition Assistant is a partition magic alternative. It has been widely used by many companies as well as individuals all around the globe with fine reputation, and the Home Edition is absolutely free of charge for personal users. You will be amazed by its cool functions and would like to recommand to your friends after you try our top-notch technologies.


Junkware Removal Tool – Junkware Removal Tool is a security utility that searches for and removes common adware, toolbars, and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) from your computer. A common tactics among freeware publishers is to offer their products for free, but bundle them with PUPs in order to earn revenue. This tool will help you remove these types of programs.

Junkware Removal Tool has the ability to remove the following types of programs:

Ask Toolbar



Claro / iSearch





Facemoods / Funmoods








MyPC Backup






Snap Do

Swag Bucks


Web Assistant



And many more…


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

White House Drops ‘Consumer Privacy Bill Of Rights Act’ Draft – In a late-Friday release, the White House published a draft of its proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. You can read the full text here. The bill sets out to, in its own words, “establish baseline protections for individual privacy in the commercial arena and to foster timely, flexible implementations of these protections through enforceable codes of conduct developed by diverse stakeholders.”

The proposal details what an individual should be able to expect from a service that they use, including how security is managed. It also deals with data deletion, and the revocation of consent on the part of a user. A service would have 45 days to comply with a deletion request.

Also enumerated is a restriction of what sort of information that can be collected:

Canada: Open letter to Parliament: Amend C-51 or kill it – The following is an open letter addressed to all members of Parliament and signed by more than 100 Canadian professors of law and related disciplines.

Dear Members of Parliament,

Please accept this collective open letter as an expression of the signatories’ deep concern that Bill C-51 (which the government is calling the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015) is a dangerous piece of legislation in terms of its potential impacts on the rule of law, on constitutionally and internationally protected rights, and on the health of Canada’s democracy.

Beyond that, we note with concern that knowledgeable analysts have made cogent arguments not only that Bill C-51 may turn out to be ineffective in countering terrorism by virtue of what is omitted from the bill, but also that Bill C-51 could actually be counter-productive in that it could easily get in the way of effective policing, intelligence-gathering and prosecutorial activity. In this respect, we wish it to be clear that we are neither “extremists” (as the Prime Minister has recently labelled the Official Opposition for its resistance to Bill C-51) nor dismissive of the real threats to Canadians’ security that government and Parliament have a duty to protect. Rather, we believe that terrorism must be countered in ways that are fully consistent with core values (that include liberty, non-discrimination, and the rule of law), that are evidence-based, and that are likely to be effective.

The scope and implications of Bill C-51 are so extensive that it cannot be, and is not, the purpose of this letter to itemize every problem with the bill. Rather, the discussion below is an effort to reflect a basic consensus over some (and only some) of the leading concerns, all the while noting that any given signatory’s degree of concern may vary item by item. Also, the absence of a given matter from this letter is not meant to suggest it is not also a concern.

We are grateful for the service to informed public debate and public education provided, since Bill C-51 was tabled, by two highly respected law professors — Craig Forcese of the University of Ottawa and Kent Roach of the University of Toronto — who, combined, have great expertise in national security law at the intersection of constitutional law, criminal law, international law and other sub-disciplines. What follows — and we limit ourselves to five points — owes much to the background papers they have penned, as well as to insights from editorials in the media and speeches in the House of Commons.

Accordingly, we urge all MPs to vote against Bill C-51 for the following reasons:

Pointing up    Once again, The Great White North overshadows The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, in citizen/taxpayer engagement.

Australia: Metadata laws may close piracy loopholes – Even with a parliamentary committee’s last-minute recommendations, Hollywood pirate hunters will still probably use your metadata against you in court.

The piracy code doesn’t grant copyright holders access to your metadata, even after three strikes. It just compels your ISP to comply with a court request to use metadata – your IP address – to find your name and then hand that name over. With the metadata proposal on the table, it seems the copyright holder could actually ask for access to your metadata in any civil piracy case, with Brandis’ blessing. Unlike the piracy code, this wouldn’t necessarily be limited to residental fixed-line connections – eliminating a major loophole.

Copyright holders such as the backers of the Dallas Buyers Club case are already complaining that the piracy code is too narrow for their liking. That won’t be a problem if they can rely on the Attorney-General to let them trawl through your metadata and use it against you in any civil trial.

(Contributed by Mal C.)

How I requested my photographs from the Department of Homeland Security – I have my photograph taken and my fingerprints scanned every time I enter the United States. So do all other foreign nationals. The information is collected under the US-VISIT program. Information such as name, date of birth, gender, and travel document data is recorded as well. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request I filed in November 2014, the Department of Homeland Security released a document containing information collected about me under this program over the last four years.

To request this information yourself, visit FOIAonline and make a request to US Customs and Border Protection.


Every photo taken of Runa by the Department of Homeland Security between 2010 and 2014.

Conservative audience laughs as former nsa chief refers to himself as an ‘unrelenting libertarian’ – For a second year in a row, the Conservative Action Political Conference hosted a debate on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

This morning, in a stinging rebuke similar to audience jeering of former Gov. Jim Gilmore’s seething criticism of Ed Snowden at last year’s CPAC, former NSA director Michael Hayden received an earful when he awkwardly declared that he is a libertarian.

Referring to his co-panelist Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano as an “an unrelenting libertarian,” Hayden continued, “So am I.”

As Mediaite pointed out, Hayden was quickly mocked by the audience with sustained booing and at least two people yelling, “no, you’re not!”

One person’s laughter was so loud that it is audible on C-SPAN’s video of the event.

Though Hayden went on to cast his defense of domestic spying as a his duty in the pursuit of liberty and homeland security, he also has a direct stake in the debate over surveillance — and it doesn’t make him any more disposed to the libertarian side of that debate.

Hayden is a principal with the Chertoff Group, a consulting firm for the multi-billion dollar cyber security and intelligence industry. He is also on the board of Alion Science and Technology, a military contractor that does intelligence and techical work. For that part-time gig he has been paid approximately $336,500 over the last four years, according to reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


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