Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – June 1, 2015

Hola VPN is selling users’ bandwidth as botnet;  Ten reasons to still consider a basic flip phone;  Alibi – Android app that records the last hour of your life;  7 steps for archiving your files for posterity;  4 essential Google Drive add-ons;  17 Tips to Help You Master Microsoft OneDrive;  The best email app for Android;  The best email app for the iPhone;  Five tips to speed up your Mac;  10 Luxury Father’s Day Gifts for Your Geeky Pop;  Apps to customize your Android smartphone;  Sleeper ransomware “Locker” rises from the dead;  56 Movies and Shows Coming to Netflix in June;  26 Movies and TV Shows Coming to Amazon Instant in June;  5 things you should know about cyber insurance;  Here’s how the Windows 10 reservation app works;  The Patriot Act’s broadest surveillance powers have expired.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

An app that passively records your life so you always have a witness – Alibi is an Android app that records the last hour of your life. So if you’re in a protest, police altercation, or even a dangerous personal situation, you can always have evidence. The ACLU recently developed an app called Mobile Justice, which allows you to record and report any instances of police brutality on the go. It’s been adopted in California, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Oregon. I’m Getting Arrested is an Android app that sends emergency messages to people in your phone. Stop and Frisk Watch is a free app developed by the New York Civil Liberties Union to report unlawful stop and frisk encounters. The SWAT App allows you to record and livestream police encounters, and also informs you of your rights. Similarly, platforms like Periscope and Meerkat allow you to livestream video to see the world in real-time through other people’s eyes.

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7 steps for archiving your files for posterity – We really don’t know how long our photos and other digital content will last. But you can increase the odds that your great-grandchildren will enjoy the digital record of your life.

Google’s Project Vault is a security system disguised as a microSD card – The Vault card is essentially a secure computer that protects the personal information of a phone’s owner. For example, it can encrypt, or scramble, chat messages from an app and provide extra levels of authentication, so your device knows that you are you. The card itself has a near-field communication, or NFC, chip for communicating with nearby devices and has 4 gigabytes of storage. It can be recognized by any OS — including Google’s Android software, Windows, and Apple’s OS X — but all the software is being run off the microSD card.

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4 essential Google Drive add-ons – Add-ons are a great way to give Google Drive’s productivity suite a little more horsepower. These four offer creative solutions for collaborating, automating document workflow, and mapping data and ideas. Give them a try, and push your productivity to new levels.

17 Tips to Help You Master Microsoft OneDrive – OneDrive really should be a bigger name than it is. But Microsoft isn’t as synonymous with cloud/sync as Dropbox or Google Drive. The latter has the excellent integration of Docs and Sheets for online editing, but OneDrive has something arguably better: full integration with Office Online (formerly Office Web Apps; see what I mean about renaming?). Office Online houses the online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Plus, OneDrive is integrated directly with Windows 8.1—no utility needed. All it takes to access OneDrive is a Microsoft account. The service will sync files between all your Windows and Mac computers, which you can access online via mobile apps and the Web.

Try the Microsoft Hyperlapse beta on Android – Microsoft has released a new app for Android devices that will let you turn any video into a smooth hyperlapse. If you’re interested in creating super-smooth hyperlapse videos on your Android phone, then you’ll want to check out this latest app from Microsoft. But first, you’ll need to perform a bit of setup.

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The best email app for Android – If we all have one thing in common, it’s that we hate dealing with email. Whether it’s personal or professional, it’s something we just can’t escape. The best way to deal with email is still at the desktop, but mobile apps are catching up fast. So which ones can help you get the closest to inbox zero nirvana?

The best email app for the iPhone – More than anything, a good email app should be fast. Refreshing your inbox, loading messages — none of these things should take more than a second or two. It should also give you plenty of different ways to deal with the daily email deluge. That means letting you do things like reply, archive, delete, or schedule messages with swipes or taps, while also giving you easy access to other services like calendars and files.

Apps to customize your Android smartphone – Your smartphone doesn’t have to just be functional — there are many apps which can customize your gadget to your satisfaction in a matter of clicks.

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Themer is an Android launcher — a kind of skin for your device which allows you to install custom themes.

Ten reasons to still consider a basic flip phone in today’s smartphone world – Summary:Most phones sold by carriers are smartphones, but there are still many reasons that a basic flip phone is still a valid option for many people.

Windows 7 and 8 users are now able to reserve their free copy of Windows 10 – Microsoft has started advertising Windows 10 to Windows 7 and 8 users with a popup that allows the user to reserve their copy of Windows 10 by following the instructions in the prompt.

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Here’s how the Windows 10 reservation app works and how to remove it – Microsoft has officially opened up the reservation process for Windows 10 and when the window pops up, here are the steps you will need to complete to reserve your copy of the OS.

Windows 10 OEM pre-orders show up on Newegg, $109 for Home and $149 for Pro – We are quickly approaching the time when Microsoft will have to formally announce the release date and pricing for Windows 10 but Newegg has already opened up pre-orders for the software.

Fedora 22 walk through: The first major Linux distro with GNOME 3.16 – Fedora 22 ships with version 4.0 of the Linux kernel and GNOME 3.16, and Workstation, Server, and Cloud builds. Here’s a first look at the release.

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

Facebook now supports animated GIFs in the Timeline – Facebook users will finally be able to post animated GIFs to their timeline albeit using third-party hosts, as the company has finally enabled the support for these files.

Five tips to speed up your Mac – The only place I like seeing a beach ball is at a beach or in a stadium during a baseball game or concert. The one place I least like to see a beach ball is on my aging MacBook Pro, where the spinning beach ball has become an altogether too familiar a sight. If your Mac has become frustratingly slow, there are a number of ways you can speed it up again. Before you engage in any maintenance, I would urge you to take caution and back up your data.

Amazon’s ‘Kindle for Kids Bundle’ comes just in time for summer – School’s out for summer, which means that children will have a lot more free time, and their parents are going to have to find ways to entertain them. Amazon wants to be your solution to summertime as it introduces the “Kindle for Kids Bundle”. Perfect for rainy days and long car trips, the package includes the latest Kindle, kid-friendly case, and 2 year warranty for $99.00. If purchased separately, parents would be spending about $40 more.

10 Luxury Father’s Day Gifts for Your Geeky Pop – Father’s Day doesn’t get the pomp and circumstance of that other day. And that’s fine. Dads don’t need much. Just a little somethin’-somethin’ to know that their work is appreciated. BUT if you really wanted to, I’m sure that your dad wouldn’t mind if you splurged just a bit. Or, perhaps—if you were so inclined—you could even splurge a whole bunch!

Security:

Hola VPN is selling users’ bandwidth as botnet – Free virtual private network (VPN) service Hola, available as a popular Chrome extension, is well-known among users who frequently like to watch videos and TV shows from other countries that location blocked. Sadly, it has just been discovered that owners of the service have actually been selling users’ bandwidth as botnet, or bulk traffic that can be purchased and used in a denial-of-service attack on a website. Hola claims this has always been clear in their terms of service, but users say they have never been made aware of this bandwidth usage.

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Sleeper ransomware “Locker” rises from the dead, infects hundreds of PCs – A dormant ransomware similar to Cryptolocker has recently been activated. Dubbed “Locker,” the program encrypts computer files, and asks the victim for 0.1 bitcoin in exchange for the decryption key.

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Google wants to make your life the password – Our digital lives are punctuated by an increasing number of PINs, fingerprint scans, and other security hurdles, but an Android project could end all that. The Google ATAP team has been working on a new authentication system, publicly revealed at I/O 2015 this week for the first time, which bypasses explicit codes and biometrics, and instead uses ongoing user-recognition to figure out who you are simply by how you use your phone.

US says it will help Japan defend against cyberattacks – The US government this week announced that it will expand its cybersecurity partnership with Japan, amid growing concerns over potential attacks against military bases and other infrastructure on the island nation. As Reuters reports, both countries are looking to strengthen their ties to counter threats from China and North Korea. A partnership established in 2013 will integrate the missile defense systems of the US and Japan, while giving Japan a greater security role in the region.

The US tried to sabotage North Korea’s nuclear program with targeted malware – In 2010, the United States launched a covert malware campaign aimed at sabotaging North Korea’s nuclear program, according to a new report from Reuters’ Joseph Menn, citing multiple sources familiar with the campaign. The campaign was ultimately unable to breach North Korean systems, but would have been activated when it detected Korean language settings on an appropriately structured industrial system. The program came on the heels of the Stuxnet campaign against Iran that met with much greater success.

China developing ATM with face recognition – A prototype facial recognition technology has been developed by Beijing’s Tsinghua University and Hangzhou-based security company Tzekwan Technology in an aim to help reduce crimes committed using ATMs.

Company News:

Microsoft and Google rise while IBM sinks in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for cloud providers – Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) shows Amazon dominant, Microsoft and Google making progress, and IBM’s service – based on its purchase of SoftLayer – in relative decline…

Amid talk of an initial public offering, SnapChat raises $537.6 million – Already flush, Snapchat just got more cash. After raising $200 million in March, the photo-messaging app has raised an additional $537.6 million, according to government documents released on Friday. Those securities filings suggest that Snapchat might pull in another $112.3 million in funding, bringing its total for this year alone to $850 million. CNBC reported that the latest funding values the company at a whopping $16 billion.

With Android Pay on the way, Google Wallet pivots to focus on personal money transfers – Now in the shadow of Android Pay, Google is rebuilding Wallet’s mobile apps to target the new direction.

Qualcomm partners with Google on Tango phone – While both units remain “developer units”, Google has announced that Project Tango is prepared now as a tablet for the public and as a phone with Qualcomm inside. The Project Tango Developer Kit tablet will be available from the Google Store as early as this afternoon to all buyers. It’ll have the same price as it did for developers most recently (reduced from the original, of course), for a cool $512 USD. This kit will use an NVIDIA K1 processor inside while another phone-sized device is currently in development. This phone-sized device will have Qualcomm’s processor technology running the show.

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Google and Levi’s team on Jacquard touch-sensitive clothes – Google’s ATAP team promised to blow our socks off at I/O 2015, and Project Jacquard is how it plans to do that, a new conductive fabric that can track touch. Intended to bring new types of sensing and control to clothes, furnishings, and other areas which might not normally be electronically connected. And, while we’ve seen conductive threads woven through materials before, Project Jacquard goes further than most, including a partnership with one of the biggest names in fashion.

Games and Entertainment:

56 Movies and Shows Coming to Netflix in June – You should be outside enjoying the sun and sand but if you’re surfing your TV instead, here’s what to watch.

26 Movies and TV Shows Coming to Amazon Instant in June – Netflix might be sucking up most of the Internet’s peak traffic, but Amazon Prime Instant video has a nice little collection of movies and TV shows, too. Here are some of the selections arriving in June for your streaming pleasure.

Build a performance gaming PC for $620 – When it comes to gaming PCs, it’s not a case of how fast you want your PC to be, but how fast you want to spend money. Last week I looked at big bucks ways to supercharge your gaming PC. But what if you don’t have thousands of dollars laying about the place? Can you still build a killer gaming PC on a tight budget? Sure you can!

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New Need for Speed game will require constant online connection – Now that it has been revealed that a new entry in the Need for Speed game series is coming this year and will act as a “reboot” of the franchise, players have been wondering what they can expect this time around. Publisher EA has recently taken to answering some questions on Twitter, and yesterday stated in one reply that the game will require and internet connection at all time to be played. This sort of thing may sound familiar, as it was a controversial part of Microsoft’s initial announcement of the Xbox One console.

Now more than ever, the Internet belongs to cord-cutters – When I started using the Internet in the 80s it was all text. Then, along came the Web in 1993 and we got images. Oh boy! Today, as Mary Meeker, a partner at venture firm KIeiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), reported in her annual Internet trends report, 64 percent of all consumer Internet traffic is video. Sandvine, a broadband solution provider and analysis firm, has found that video takes up even more than that in the Internet’s peak hours.

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Android TV to bolster its app selection with Twitch, HBO Now, and more – As more people cut the cord and turn to streaming services to replace conventional cable networks, the competition between TV service platforms continues to heat up. Android TV, which is a newcomer on the market compared to seniors like Roku, has some things in the works to bring its service to the next level. Google announced at its I/O conference that new apps, including high-profile selections like HBO Now, are going to be coming to Android TV.

Valve accidentally tips Steam Summer Sale start date on Russia’s Facebook equivalent – The Steam Summer Sale will kick off June 11 and last through June 20, assuming a post on Russian social media is correct. It’s sort of a large assumption to make, but the post in question did originate from Valve’s official VKontakte page (Russian Facebook) so this rumor—originally spotted by IGN Russia—does have some credence to it. If true, it means the Steam Summer Sale is revving up quite a bit earlier than normal this time around.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Solar Impulse 2 begins world’s longest flight: Six days, five nights non-stop – Solar Impulse 2, which is attempting the world’s first solar-powered circumnavigation of Earth, has begun the longest leg of its journey: a single, non-stop flight of about 5078 miles (8172km) from China to Hawaii. The plane, and pilot André Borschberg, will be aloft for six days and five nights, with Borschberg attempting to stay awake for much of that time. The solar-powered aircraft, which has a larger wingspan than a 747, began its round-the-world trip in March. It departed from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, headed down the Persian Gulf to Oman, hopped over to India, then Myanmar, and finally into Nanjing in China at the end of April. You can watch the current flight live on the Solar Impulse website. (The website is pretty cool; you should check it out.)

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Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace – The New Yorker, in a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.  Furthermore, a sense of privacy boosts job performance, while the opposite can cause feelings of helplessness. In addition to the distractions, my colleagues and I have been more vulnerable to illness. Last flu season took down a succession of my co-workers like dominoes.

Awair monitors your home or office’s air quality – Your home’s air quality might be suffering thanks to the traffic or businesses around you, but you might not realize it. Many of the problems in the air can’t be detected without help until they reach fairly serious levels, and so to prevent them from reaching that point we turn to air monitoring technologies. Fortunately, those technologies have become relatively inexpensive over the years and as such have found their way into homes. Awair is the latest example of this, serving as a stereo-like device (it looks like a stereo, is all) that keep tabs on nasties in the air.

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5 things you should know about cyber insurance – As more companies step in to offer insurance coverage against a broad range of cyber losses, we break down five points that organizations should keep in mind as they consider their options.

Something to think about:

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit.”

–     Elbert Hubbard

Today’s Free Downloads:

Wise Force Deleter 1.01.17 Beta – Wise Force Deleter is a safe and easy to use file unlocker & deleter that will allow you to delete any file that Windows can’t delete.

In Windows, when you try to delete a file, you might see notices or errors like this:

Cannot delete file: Access is denied.

There has been a sharing violation.

The source or destination file may be in use.

The file is in use by another program or user.

Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use.

Wise Force Deleter is designed to fix all the issues above by terminating the processes using the file or removing file-access restrictions that prevent you from deleting a file. With Wise Force Deleter, you can unlock and delete any file without frustration in Windows.

Wise Force Deleter allows you to access it via a context menu. Right after installing it, a new option named “Force Delete” will appear in the context menu. To unlock&delete a locked file, you just need to right click it, select ‘Force Delete’, Wise Force Deleter will be launched. Then you can unlock and delete the file from your Windows system immediately, which is real convenient.

Like all other WiseCleaner products, The interface of Wise Force Deleter is very intuitive. Even a first timer can get the hang of it in seconds. Better yet, it also supports drag and drop, making file-deletion super easy for you.

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Copy Handler 1.40 Beta – Copy Handler is a free, open source tool for Microsoft Windows that allows you to manage different copy/move operations for files and folders. You can use it on your own hard drive partition, other storage media (external hard drives, CD/DVD units, flash drives etc.).

Features:

full-control over the copy/move process (you can use pause,resume,cancel,restart buttons)

huge amount of options (task queuing, file filters, shutdown after finishing copy process, auto resume, logging, different shell options, adjust buffer size on multiple levels for CD-ROM/HDD/network and so on).

one of the most customizable application from this area: the options section has over 60 detailed areas that can be customized for your needs.

observe detailed information regarding the entire copy/move operation such as: estimated time left, progress, speed etc.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Patriot Act’s broadest surveillance powers have expired – Central portions of the Patriot Act are set to expire at midnight tonight, after a late-night Senate vote failed to extend the provisions. Those portions include Section 215, which applies to business records requests and has been used to justify the bulk collection of American phone and internet records.

Tonight’s session was a second chance for the Senate, after the chamber failed to pass the USA Freedom Act last Friday, putting portions of the legal basis for US surveillance in jeopardy. The Freedom Act passed cloture with 77 votes, and is likely to pass through the Senate later this week, but an ongoing filibuster from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) meant the Senate was unable to pass the bill before the scheduled sunset of Patriot Act powers. Senator Paul has garnered significant publicity for his efforts in delaying the vote, including a remarkable and bizarre PAC ad which appeared to cheer on the filibuster on Friday.

Proposed rule change to expand feds’ legal hacking powers moves forward – A controversial proposed judicial rule change allowing judges to issue warrants to conduct “remote access” against a target computer regardless of its location has been approved by a United States Courts committee, according to the Department of Justice.

Federal agents have been known to use such tactics in past and ongoing cases: a Colorado federal magistrate judge approved sending malware to a suspect’s known e-mail address in 2012. But similar techniques have been rejected by other judges on Fourth Amendment grounds. If this rule revision were to be approved, it would standardize and expand federal agents’ ability to surveil a suspect and to exfiltrate data from a target computer regardless of where it is. (Both the United States Army and the Drug Enforcement Administration are known to have purchased such exploits, most likely zero-days.)

In the United States, federal warrants are issued by judges who serve one of the 94 federal judicial districts and are typically only valid for that particular jurisdiction. Typically those warrants are limited to the district in which they are issued.

Push For Greater State Surveillance Powers Could Have Chilling Effect On U.K. Tech Sector – The U.K. government is lining up a new piece of legislation to expand the state’s digital data capture powers. The incoming bill, the Investigatory Powers Bill, was announced in the Queen’s speech this week. It has not yet been published in draft form so specific details of what is being planned remains unclear, but in recent times the Conservative party has been banging the drum to expand the type and volume of captured comms data. The U.K. Prime Minister has even appeared to suggest that strong encryption should be outlawed.

The Telegraph newspaper this week suggested new powers to be outlined in the Bill will require companies like Google and Facebook to give U.K. intelligence agencies access to the encrypted conversations of suspected terrorists and criminals. That scenario presupposes Internet companies have the ability to access their users’ encrypted messages.

Florida public schools to spy on students’ social media, report says – The more things that technology can do, the more it leaves open the possibility of further good and further not so good being perpetrated.

Please decide, therefore, whether you think it’s good that a school district buys itself software to monitor the social media activity of its students.

This is what the Orange County Public Schools District has chosen to do. As Click Orlando reports, the district announced on Thursday that it has signed up with a service called Snaptrends, which bills itself as “Pioneering Location-Based Social Media Discovery.” It promises to “quickly identify actionable insights.”

One person’s actionable could be another’s reprehensible.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – May 29, 2015

Protect Your Account With Facebook Security Checkup;  How Bad Bots Are Destroying The Internet;  Google Photos is now available for Android, iOS, and the web;  Windows 10 signoff is slated for mid July; This is Android M: what has changed so far;  Keep an eye on Congress and contact your reps with Countable;  Google Opens Inbox To All;  17 Tricks to Master Microsoft PowerPoint ;  Google I/O 2015 round-up: the main keynote;  Google Play Gets More Family-Friendly;  Here Are the Funniest Error Pages on the Web;  Legal trouble in wearables: Jawbone sues Fitbit;  Google’s new goal: Make everything work together;  Sex disease surge in US state partly blamed on hook-up apps;  Screenshot Captor (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How Bad Bots Are Destroying The Internet – The Internet has been described in many different ways over the years. We don’t use the term “information superhighway” much anymore, but a recent report may make you reconsider where and how you cruise around on it, regardless. That’s because a quarter of the cars on this road with you, dear reader, are being driven by mindless bandits looking to steal anything they can. Now, imagine traveling a road like that in the real world. No thanks, I’d rather walk. Last year was the first time in history that bots outnumbered people on the web. According to research from Distil Networks, almost 60% of 2014’s web traffic consisted of automated bits of code, 23% of which exist to do dirty work for fraudsters and hackers.

Protect Your Account With Facebook Security Checkup – You might not care much about your Facebook security beyond having what you believe to be a fairly hard-to-guess password. And that’s fine; most people probably don’t have much to worry about. But in case you need a friendly reminder, Facebook has launched a new “Security Checkup” feature that should give users a bit more of a helping hand for setting up the various security measures that Facebook uses to keep your data safe.

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The new Google Photos is now available for Android, iOS, and the web – Photos organizes your images using powerful face detection and machine learning, and lets you search for photos by keyword even if the photos aren’t tagged in any way. And an “assistant” feature will back up photos to the cloud as soon as you shoot them, then let you know when it’s OK to delete them and free up space on your device. Google has also built in some clever sharing tools to make it easy to drag a box around a few photos and share them with friends with a couple of clicks. Folks worried about Google having access to more of their data will likely be scared away from the new service. But for everyone else, it’s a powerful solution to a real problem — and now it’s free.

This is Android M: what has changed so far – Google has just released preview images of Android M, so naturally everyone tries to get their hands on the latest and would be greatest Android version, regardless of being in a stable state or not. And although this super early version is not yet in its final state, or even in its semi-final state, it is already showing some promise, some interesting changes, and even some rather strange ones. So buckle up while we take a cursory look at some of those changes in Android M.

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Scan documents and whiteboards with your Android smartphone and Microsoft Office Lens – Microsoft completes the trifecta with the full release of Office Lens for Android joining iOS and Windows Phone products.

Five download utilities that can save you time and trouble– With today’s blazing network speeds and multiple platforms to manage, what tools are the best to have at the ready? I’ve listed five download utilities that might well make your daily download duties hassle free. Let’s check out these utilities and see if any are worth adding to your current line up of networking tools.

The Best Smart Home Automation Hubs of 2015 – Smart home automation hubs are a one-stop solution for unifying your connected gadgets and controlling them from one simple app, instead of many. But not all hubs are created equal; different hubs support different connectivity protocols, so it’s important to look for a hub that supports the devices you use. Bluetooth LE, Lutron ClearConnect, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and ZigBee are all popular ways to connect, so you want a hub that supports as many of these standards as possible. Support for IFTTT (If This Then That) is also useful, as it adds even more ways to configure and trigger your connected devices.

Mozilla appears to abandon Firefox tracking protection initiative: Is privacy protection impossible? – Summary:A hidden feature in the open-source Firefox browser can cut load times for modern web pages nearly in half. So why isn’t this feature easy to find and enable? Blame the well-funded online advertising industry.

Here Are the Funniest Error Pages on the Web – From 2016 presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to social networks like Reddit and Google, here are some of most creative 404 sites.

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Amazon Debuts A $99 Kindle Bundle For Kids Including An E-Reader, Cover And Warranty – The Bundle is being sold for $99, which is a savings of $39.98 if all three items were purchased separately, notes Amazon. The Kindle e-reader is designed for books, meaning it doesn’t support apps and games as with Kindle tablets. The device’s 4 GB of storage can hold thousands of books, and stays charged up to four weeks, based on half an hour of reading per day with wireless off. Parents can buy Kindle books from Amazon, which today offers over 250,000 titles, or they can borrow e-books from their public library to use with the device.

Google Opens Inbox To All, Adds Smart Reminders, Trip Bundles, Undo Send And More – Google today announced that Inbox, the Gmail-based mobile email client the company launched late last year, is now open to all. Until today, you still needed an invitation to use the service, though invites have long been pretty easy to come by. Google says it will also open up Inbox to all Google for Works customers (whose admins enable this feature for them) through the early-adopter program starting today.

Microsoft adds Dolby Digital Plus support to Edge, beats Chrome and Firefox to the punch – Microsoft is bringing Dolby Audio support to Edge that will allow websites to deliver high-quality multi-channel audio and it is the first browser to support Dolby Digital Plus.

Screenshots: Microsoft Edge preview – Microsoft Windows 10 will feature a brand new web browser that is technologically superior to Internet Explorer. Here’s a look at the preview version.

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17 Tricks to Master Microsoft PowerPoint – This collection of tips is all about the vagaries of the powerful PowerPoint software itself. It’s meant for those with a grasp of the basics and beyond who are looking for that extra little goose to get the most out of the program. We hope with these tricks—some of which will, inevitably, have some advice for better presentations and slideshows—help make your next speaking engagement even more persuasive. Note, these tips are specific to PowerPoint 2013, the latest version.

Amazon Prime launches free same-day delivery in 14 cities – Should an Amazon Prime member live in one of 14 qualifying metropolitan areas—including the company’s home base of Seattle, along with the Bay area, New York City, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Boston—they can get free same-day delivery on orders of $35 and up. Be advised: you’ll want to check at Amazon’s zip code search site for your own eligibility if you live in a sprawling region; our test of addresses in the Seattle and Dallas/Fort Worth regions proved scattershot.

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Apple offers official workaround for bug that crashes iPhone Messages – Earlier this week, iPhone users discovered that receiving a small string of text characters over Apple’s iMessage service could crash their phone’s Messages app, effectively blocking them from reading incoming texts. Now, in a support document published on Apple’s site, the company has detailed an official workaround for the problem. The company says iPhone owners who’ve been targeted with the string will need to complete the following steps, using Siri to unlock their Messages app:

SourceForge grabs GIMP for Windows’ account, wraps installer in bundle-pushing adware – SourceForge, the code repository site owned by Slashdot Media, has apparently seized control of the account hosting GIMP for Windows on the service, according to e-mails and discussions amongst members of the GIMP community—locking out GIMP’s lead Windows developer. And now anyone downloading the Windows version of the open source image editing tool from SourceForge gets the software wrapped in an installer replete with advertisements.

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Windows 10 signoff is slated for mid July – Microsoft is targeting the middle of July for a signoff of Windows 10 which means that the OS will be in the hands of OEMs by the end of July, if the roadmap stays on schedule.

Google I/O 2015 round-up: the main keynote – Google focuses on Android, development of Internet of Things, Photos, and virtual reality at this year’s Google I/O developer conference. The conference began with a brief introduction to Android M, Google’s next software for mobile devices. From there, they went on to celebrate their first billion user products and the release of Android Pay. Needless to say, this wasn’t a super Chrome-focused sort of day. This was a day of mobile engagement from the start of this first keynote to the end. All about movement and tiny device software.

Security:

Linux/Moose router malware seems to be targeting Facebook logins – ESET security researchers have issued a paper outlining a new variant of router malware, a worm that is stealing social media auth tokens to “like” pages without the user’s consent.

Security vuln allows Android app tampering through single URL click – A severe security flaw has been discovered within device APIs used to develop Android applications. Apache Cordova, developed by The Apache Software Foundation, is a toolkit of device APIs used by mobile app developers to access native device functions including cameras and accelerometer from JavaScript. The APIs provide a Javascript library to invoke different functions, and when used with Cordova, mobile apps can be built using web technologies such as HTML, CSS and Javascript. The service is compatible with the iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Palm WebOS, Bada, and Symbian platforms. In a security bulletin posted this week, Cordova admitted a “major” security issue has been discovered in the API platform.

Yay for Tor! It’s given us RANSOMWARE-as-a-service – Threat Research head Jim Walter says a virus writer has created a ransomware-as-a-service offering which allows luddite criminals to fleece users. Walter discovered the Tox ransomware on an eponymously named Tor hidden service noting the author required a 30 percent cut of paid Bitcoin ransoms. He says Tox is one of the few turnkey ransomware offerings allowing scumbags to key in custom ransom notes in a web form.

Company News:

Setback for Uber as South Korea Bans Private Taxis – In a largely symbolic move that appears to be aimed directly at Uber’s cheap UberX service, South Korea passed legislation on Friday banning unlicensed drivers from providing taxi services — becoming the first country to institute a nationwide prohibition of the practice.

Wi-Fi chip maker Broadcom to be acquired in a $37-billion deal – Avago Technologies has agreed to buy Broadcom in a deal that will create a networking chip giant with a wide variety of products, including components for the burgeoning Internet of Things sector. It has offered US$37 billion for Broadcom, including $17 billion in cash and equity valued at approximately $20 billion, it said on Thursday. The combined company will offer products for wired and wireless networks.

Amazon plans on selling its own brand of groceries – Amazon wants to completely replace your supermarket. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that the company plans on selling its own private line of perishable foods, including milk, cereal, and baby food. The move expands on the e-commerce site’s other private label brands, and could help position it as a one-stop shop for all consumers’ deliverable needs.

Alibaba Expands Logistics Network To Power Next-Day Grocery Deliveries In More Chinese Cities – Over the past two years, groceries have become an increasingly important segment for Chinese e-commerce companies. Now Alibaba, which is facing slowing growth despite its leading market position, is ramping up the growth of its countrywide logistics network to power next-day deliveries.

Google Reveals Plan To Get Android Powering Internet Of Things Devices – Today at Google I/O 2015 Google detailed its plan to roll Android into the home and everyday devices. Meet Brillo and Weave. Together, these two software products will power and allow Internet of Things devices. Brillo builds in the ability for device managers and hardware owners to control multiple devices from a centralized software location. Weave is the communication layer that sits between Brillo devices, the cloud and devices like phones or tablets. This allows devices to talk to each other. Since Brillo and Weave are built around Android, it allowed Google to design a new way to set up these devices.

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Legal trouble in wearables: Jawbone sues Fitbit – The intense rivalry in the wearables market has spilled over into court with Jawbone accusing rival Fitbit of “systematically plundering” its employees, trade secrets and intellectual property. In a suit filed in San Francisco against Fitbit and five employees, Jawbone said that beginning this year, Fitbit recruiters contacted about 30 percent of Jawbone’s employees and induced at least five employees to join the company.

Japan remains Google Play’s top country by revenue – App Annie has said the vast majority of revenue on Google Play is made from Japan, the United States, and South Korea

Games and Entertainment:

Twitch no longer allows streaming of Adults Only-rated games – The popular video game streaming service Twitch has announced that it will no longer permit users to stream games that have received the AO, or ‘Adults Only,’ rating from the US’s Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). This change was revealed on Twitch’s official blog, and is part of an update to the service’s rules of conduct. The company says it has a goal of creating “a safe, welcoming, inclusive community platform where everyone can feel comfortable and have fun.”

Google Play Gets More Family-Friendly With Content Ratings, Filtering By Age And Interest – Parents searching Google’s mobile app store will now be able to tap on a new “Family” button indicated with a green, smiley faced star icon in order to find the family-friendly content across apps, games, movies and TV homepages. There’s also a “Children’s Books” button on the Books homepage, where parents can also filter the selection by age range and genre.

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Microsoft is updating the Xbox One controller with a 3.5mm headset port – Microsoft’s Xbox Support site now includes references to a 3.5mm audio port on Xbox One “controllers released after June 2015″, hinting at a revised controller being launched at E3 next month.

Capcom removes Ultra Street Fighter 4 from tournament, blames Sony for bugs – Following the recent news that the release of Ultra Street Fighter IV for the PlayStation 4 has a large number of bugs and glitches, the game’s developer Capcom has said that it will be pulled from the official Street Fighter tournaments, taking place this summer. Among the problems with USF4 reported, including audio issues and animation problems, the most damaging has been input lag, or delays between button presses and in-game movements/actions. As Street Fighter is built on some of the most precise timing mechanisms, lag of this sort would be devastating during a tournament.

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Nintendo’s first true online shooter—Splatoon—is a hot, painted mess – There is absolutely fun to be had in a good Splatoon battle, but the catch here is the future tense. Splatoon reveals more than a few signs of immaturity in the online gaming space, but its worse offense sees Nintendo catching up, unfortunately, with another big gaming trend of late. This is yet another retail launch of an unfinished game. The version of Splatoon we’d like to play—different from the one people are about to spend $60 on—evidently hasn’t been made yet.

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The tech that’s putting women in EA’s FIFA games for the first time – This morning, Electronic Arts announced that this year’s version of its FIFA soccer franchise would be the first ever to include female players. Twelve international women’s teams will be added to the game for FIFA 16 after over 20 years of the games featuring only male players. At a preview event for the game, FIFA Senior Producer Nick Shannon told Ars that the change is “one of the most important additions, in my opinion, we’ve ever made. I’m the father of two daughters who both play soccer, and for them, this is probably the best feature we’ve ever added.”

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‘Game of Thrones’ drives traffic spike for HBO — and dings Netflix – A twice-yearly Internet traffic report provides a peek at how the season premiere of the hit fantasy series boosted viewership of HBO’s online services.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google’s new goal: Make everything work together – The search giant has found a new purpose in all our lives: Bringing together the various products and services we use to work together as easily as possible.

9 tech companies’ earliest website designs – In many ways, a website serves as most companies’ digital fingerprint. While some corporate websites are merely gateways to buy and learn about new products (e.g., Apple), others may entirely define what a company is (e.g., Facebook). That said, it’s always fun to take a trip back in time and explore what the digital fingerprints of yore looked like. Here are what some of the earliest tech company websites looked like when they first launched.

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Sex disease surge in US state partly blamed on hook-up apps – Authorities undecided on name: Sexual health scare 2.0 or Clap from an App. – Tinder, Grindr and other mobile “hook-up” apps have been blamed for a spike in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the US state of Rhode Island.. From 2013 to 2014, infections of syphilis increased by 79 per cent, gonorrhea cases rose 30 per cent and new HIV diagnosis increased by about a third, according to data from the Rhode Island Department of Health. Hook-up apps may be partially to blame, according to officials, who also noted that other “high risk” behaviours and better medical testing may be also be factors in the rise.

Watch This Drone’s Unfortunate Encounter With a Goose – In a video posted by RTV NH, a media production company in Holland, a goose appears to smash into a drone (potentially on purpose). Thankfully, both the drone and the goose seemingly end the encounter unscathed. In case you were wondering, the bird is an Egyptian Goose, which is known for being territorial. The drone was capturing images of Oudorperpolder, in the city of Alkmaar, according to The Daily Mail.

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Periscope live tour held by The British Museum – Periscope is a livestreaming service, and it can be used for more than piracy and vlogs. Case in point: the British Museum gave a live broadcast of an exhibit earlier today using Periscope, and we can only hope it’ll be doing more of them in the future. This makes it easier than ever to tune into live events from iOS or Android (which is now supported) devices, the same device users can use to broadcast their own events. In the case of The British Museum, Periscope was used to offer an exclusive live guided tour for people scattered around the world.

StereoLabs announces huge hardware breakthrough: Human vision – Summary:Earlier this month, a Bay Area startup called ​StereoLabs quietly introduced the first affordable high definition stereo camera. This is a big deal, and autonomous machines will never be the same. Here’s why.

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Photo Courtesy of StereoLabs

Airbnb Express parody gets into the dark side of home sharing – Comedy troupe Above Average released a promo video for Airbnb Express, which lets you pay to go through other people’s belongings without having to sleep in their beds. Watch the video then be sure to hide your Crocs, bongs and vibrators better the next time you have strangers invading the house for a night.

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How TIME Explained the Way Computers Work – When Alan Turing submitted his paper On Computable Numbers to the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society on this day, May 28, in 1936, he could not have guessed that it would lead not only to the computer as we know it today, but also nearly all of the gadgets and devices that are so crucial a part of our lives. The paper demonstrated that a so-called Turing Machine could perform solvable computations, a proof that is commonly seen as one of the original stepping stones toward the existence of modern computers. Though Turing, who died in 1954, never got to see a smartphone, his paper remains the touchstone behind the technology.

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The Feb. 20, 1978, cover of TIME

Something to think about:

“Contrary to popular belief, I don’t spend a whole lot of time following soccer. But as I have traveled around the world to better understand global development and health, I’ve learned that soccer is truly universal. No matter where I go, that’s what kids are playing. That’s what people are talking about.”

–      Bill Gates

Today’s Free Downloads:

Screenshot Captor – Screenshot Captor was designed for grabbing screenshots with minimal intervention.

Screenshot Captor has great multimon suport and includes a full image explorer with full shell functionality and unsurpassed integration with external tools like graphic editors, watermarkers, etc.

Screenshot Captor also supports unique effects not seen in other capture tools, including the ability to automatically locate and enhance the active window.

Supports tons of image capture methods, including full screen, multimon workspace, arbitrary regions, fixed sized areas, or gdi objects. Suppors gif, png, jpg, tiff and others. Easily embeds user coments in any image type.

Features:

Optimized for taking lots of screenshots with minimal intervention – super efficient workflow.

Smart autonaming of files, and ability to embed textual comments in files; automatic image file versioning – with tons of options for automatically naming the file and inserting comments.

Great multi-monitor support.

Highly configurable to make it work the way you want it to; stays out of your way in the system tray.

Lots of capture modes: Multimon, Desktop, Active Window, Region, Windows Object. Each mode has a hotkey for quick access.

Unique Cool Effects, including automatic active window enhancement (see picture below).

Unsurpassed support for 3rd party user configurable tools, including file browsers and image editors; extend the program to do whatever you need b interfacing it with other programs.

Slimline sidebar file browser provides full shell operations, with special quick MoveTo menu.

Optional automatic image file versioning.

Seamless integration with Unicode Image Maker tool.

Autoscroll capture for windows too big for screen, and windows object capture for menus, toolbars, and buttons.

Deluxe thumbnail maker.

Quick Email sending menu using smtp or mapi (remembers who you sent to so you can send to them again super easy).

Automatically finds boundaries of non-rectangular/themed windows.

Autoscroll capture for windows too big for screen.

Deluxe thumbnail maker.

Quick PostCapture PopUp Dialog.

Quick Screenshot Emailer Menu.

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

Features:

Intuitive and easy accessible interface in the system tray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search for invalid rules with the possibility to delete them.

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

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

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

Import and export the settings of the program.

Protection to unauthorized uninstallation.

Possibility to restore previous settings at uninstallation.

And many more. Just try it out.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Keep an eye on Congress and contact your reps with Countable – Unless you spend your free time watching hours of C-SPAN, the odds are you aren’t too keenly aware of the inner workings of Congress and instead rely on hysterical headlines from MSNBC, Fox News and other news outlets to keep you informed. With Countable, you can stay better informed of the bills making their way through Congress and cast yea or nay votes to make your voice heard. Countable also lets you see how your representatives have voted and makes it easy to contact them. You can access Countable on the Web or use the Countable iPhone app or Android app.

UN says encryption “necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom” – The United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner released a report Thursday heralding encryption, but it was wishy-washy when it came to government-mandated backdoors to undermine encryption.

The report said:

Encryption and anonymity, and the security concepts behind them, provide the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age. Such security may be essential for the exercise of other rights, including economic rights, privacy, due process, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the right to life and bodily integrity.

This isn’t the first time the UN weighed in on the digital age. In 2011, it declared Internet access a human right.

The latest report, by special rapporteur David Kaye, comes amid government calls—from the United States to Europe—for technology companies to provide authorities so-called backdoor access into encrypted apps and services.

Australia: Government wants piracy site-blocking Bill passed in June – Australian Attorney-General George Brandis has told Senate Estimates the Australian government wants its legislation to block piracy sites passed before the end of June.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – May 27, 2015

Twitter’s Periscope is now available for Android;  Opera Max now monitors Wi-Fi usage, blocks data-hungry apps;  4 tips for buying a used iPhone;  Smart credit cards are coming – Here’s what you need to know;  Turn your smartphone into a remote control for YouTube on your PC;  Secure your web browsing with TunnelBear’s free Chrome extension;  Cortana is coming to Android and iOS;  Fedora 22: Cloud, desktop and server innovation;  Why SSDs don’t perform;  9 Pocket Tips to Help You Read it Later;  Android ransomware poses as FBI smut warning;  IRS hacked; data stolen from over 100,000 taxpayers;  UPDATED: The 30 Best iPhone Games;  Mad Max Savage Road game trailer;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies;  Steve Jobs and Bill Gates battle in new National Geographic series;  The best time to drink coffee for maximum jolt? Video has answers;  Glary Disk Cleaner (free);  Steve Wozniak: Edward Snowden is ‘a Hero to Me’.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Smart credit cards are coming. Here’s what you need to know – Smart cards want to replace your wallet full of debit and credit cards with one dynamic smart card. Here’s what you need to know.

4 tips for buying a used iPhone – There are three main ways to buy a used iPhone, assuming you don’t have a friend or family member who wants to sell you one on the cheap. You can purchase a certified preowned iPhone from a reputable seller, such as Gazelle; you can bid on a preowned iPhone on an auction site such as eBay; or you can pay cash for a used iPhone from a local seller on a site like Craigslist. No matter which method you choose, follow these four tips to make sure your used iPhone is as awesome and problem-free as a new iPhone.

How to turn your smartphone into a remote control for YouTube on your PC – Whether you’re watching on a PC at the office or at home, you can make it even better by turning your smartphone into a remote control. No, you don’t need a Chromecast or a TV. Just your PC and a smartphone will do. Here’s how it works using an Android smartphone, but it works pretty much the same way on iPhones, too.

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Click the Pair Device tile to get started at YouTube.com/tv.

How to easily secure your web browsing with TunnelBear’s free Chrome extension – Only need VPN-like protection for your browser and not your whole desktop? Check out TunnelBear for Chrome and Chrome OS.

Twitter’s Periscope is now available for Android – Twitter has officially released the live streaming app Periscope for Android users. The app allows users to broadcast video to users and receive feedback in the form of chat messages.

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Cortana is coming to Android and iOS – Microsoft just announced that a Cortana application is landing on Android and iOS devices to work as a companion to the digital assistant found on Windows 10. Details incoming

Facebook adds restaurant reviews from actual food critics – Following a partnership with news outlets for Instant Articles, Facebook is now integrating restaurant reviews from reputable food publications.

9 Pocket Tips to Help You Read it Later – At launch, Pocket was actually known as Read It Later, before the App Store even existed. But after a 2012 name change, it has evolved into a seriously handy app. It archives whatever you’ve saved so that you can read it offline, which is particularly helpful when you’re on a subway or train with limited service. While Pocket is a simple cross-platform app, there are a few things that can make it that much more enjoyable.

Opera Max now monitors Wi-Fi usage, block data-hungry apps – Opera is a name you might more readily associate with mobile browsers, but in late 2013 it tried to diverge a bit from that core business. Focusing on one of its key strengths, which is compressing Internet data before it arrives on your device, it launched the Opera Max service that brings that feature to cover not just web pages, but more kinds of data. In the latest iteration of its Android app, it brings two new features to the fold: watching Wi-Fi data usage and shutting down obstinate apps.

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Three helpful Word formatting tips for working smarter – These three formatting skills will improve your productivity and make you more efficient when working with Word documents.

Lenovo looks to low-cost laptops with three new models – Just ahead of its Tech World event in Beijing, Lenovo reveals three new low-cost consumer laptops, including the entry-level 14-inch ideapad 100 starting at just $249.

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Fedora 22: Cloud, desktop and server innovation – Summary:Red Hat’s new Fedora Linux comes with a better desktop, but the real improvements are in the cloud and server updates.

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Google’s Internet-connected toys patent sparks privacy concerns, visions of IoT Chucky – Google’s recently published patent for Internet-connected toys, which have microphones, cameras, speakers and motors, have sparked privacy concerns; the ‘creepy’ anthropomorphic devices might look like a doll or teddy bear, but some people believe it belongs ‘in a horror film’ and have visions of an IoT-version of Chucky.

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Credit: Mike Mozart

Why SSDs don’t perform – From their earliest days, people have reported that SSDs were not providing the performance they expected. As SSDs age, for instance, they get slower. Here’s why.

Security:

Android ransomware poses as FBI smut warning – Cybercrooks have launched a new wave of Android ransomware that poses as a pretty convincing FBI-imposed porn-surfing warning. Over 15,000 spam emails, including zipped files, have hit the inboxes of Android users in recent days, according to Romanian security software firm Bitdefender. If activated, the ransomware demands $500 to restore access. Users that try to independently unlock their devices will see the amount increase to $1,500, with payment demanded via Money Pak and PayPal My Cash transfers. The malware poses as an Adobe Flash Player update, a common malware slinging ruse.

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Android ransomware demands $500 to restore access.

IRS hacked; data stolen from over 100,000 taxpayers – Hackers successfully accessed—stole—personal information, including tax return data, from over 100,000 U.S. taxpayers. In a series of attacks that took place from February to mid-May, the hackers utilized the IRS’s “Get Transcript” system to access all of the personal information that would be on a tax return, from birthdays and social security numbers to addresses. The motivation behind the attack is, apparently, an extensive plot to claim fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities. According to the IRS, over $5.8 billion USD in fraudulent refunds were sent out in the year 2013, alone.

Blackhat hack trick wallops popular routers – A cybercrime vigilante known as Kafeine says criminals are hitting thousands of victims with a hacking tool that targets more than 40 router models. The well-known hacker says the novel attacks use cross-site request forgery and exploits against new and old bugs to change router DNS settings. This bypasses the need to target only routers with vulnerable remote services. Kafeine says the most popular routers can be targeted including Netgear, D-Link, and Asus to name a few. The hacker says the attackers’ have set up a dodgy DNS service that doesn’t direct traffic faithfully. Instead, Kafeine says victims are pointed to phishing sites whenever, for example, they attempt to log into internet banking portals. One such dodgy DNS server received up to a million unique hits on 9 May, he says.

Attackers use email spam to infect point-of-sale terminals with new malware – They’re likely counting on some employees misusing such terminals to browse the Web or check their personal email at work.

$19 million Target, MasterCard breach settlement crumbles – A proposed $19 million settlement reached last month between Target Corp. and MasterCard over a 2013 security breach fell apart after not enough banks who had sued the retailer agreed to be part of the deal they said fell short of actual damages, according to MasterCard. The settlement, announced last month, needed agreement by May 20 from 90% of MasterCard issuing banks and credit unions. Those numbers were not met, MasterCard reported. The $19 million was for reimbursement for fraudulent charges and the cost that card issuers suffered in re-issuing cards that had been compromised.

Company News:

Charter buys Time Warner Cable to create America’s second biggest cable provider – Charter Communications is buying Time Warner Cable (TWC) in a deal that values the latter, larger company at $78.7 billion. The two firms will merge together under the newly created parent company New Charter, which will become the second biggest cable provider in the US after Comcast. A separate acquisition by Charter of the smaller cable company Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion means that the new company will soon have 23.9 million customers in 41 states.

Microsoft moves deeper into Android territory, 20 new partners to ship tablets with Office apps – Microsoft has announced today that they have signed up 20 more hardware partners to ship their Android tablets with Office apps pre-installed; this includes LG, Sony, Haier, Positivo and Wortman.

Hyundai becomes first to use Android Auto in production cars – Hyundai today announced it will begin using Android Auto in vehicles this year, making it the first carmaker to enable vehicles to mirror a connected Android smartphone to the car’s dashboard infotainment system. Android Auto is premiering on the 2015 Sonata with navigation capabilities at dealerships nationwide, and will later become available on other Hyundai models, the company said.

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Android Auto enables Google maps navigation.

Oculus acquires 3D mapping company Surreal Vision to turn reality into a video game – Virtual reality company Oculus has acquired Surreal Vision, a UK company whose software can map and recreate the real world in a virtual one. Surreal Vision grew out of its three co-founders’ Ph.D. research at Imperial College London; the team will now move to Oculus’ lab in Redmond, Washington. This is the latest of several acquisitions by Oculus, which was itself purchased by Facebook in March of 2014. After the Facebook buyout, it brought on the design team that helped create the Xbox 360 controller and Kinect, followed by motion-tracking company Nimble VR.

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Apple’s Jony Ive promoted to chief design officer – Jony Ive, the design guru responsible for the minimalist characteristics of several Apple products over the years, has been promoted by the iPhone maker. Ive, who has served as the company’s senior vice president of design for several years, has been named to the newly created position of chief design officer, according to a memo sent to company employees by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Online Publisher Vox Acquires Tech News Site Recode – Online news publisher Vox Media said on Tuesday that it’s acquiring Recode, an influential tech news site, adding to a growing wave of consolidation in the tech media world.

Games and Entertainment:

UPDATED: The 30 Best iPhone Games – From casual match-three games to trivia to intense first-person shooters, our 30 best games for Apple’s iPhone span a range of genres.

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Infinity Blade II

Mad Max Savage Road game trailer: it’s no Fury Road – Cars and monster trucks that tumble and go boom. People beating the hell out of other people. Malformed, and mostly bald, inhabitants of a post-apocalyptic world. A mysterious leading lady slash love interest. And more cars that go boom. That is the gist of the new trailer for the game tie-in to the blockbuster hit Mad Max Fury Road. And the title, Mad Max Savage Road, might be totally appropriate, as this adaptation involves much more gore and violence than the film was willing to show.

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The latest Humble Bundle is for Nintendo fans – The base, pay-what-you-want bundle includes Guacamelee for the Wii U and Woah Dave and Mighty Switch Force on 3DS. Pay more than the average amount, and you can grab games like Steamworld Dig and OlliOlli as well. As with most Humble Bundles, more games will be added partway through the sale, which runs for the next two weeks. And while nothing has been announced just yet, the bundle could also mean more sales for more consoles in the future. “I hope this is the start of something,” Humble Bundle co-founder John Graham tells Polygon. You can grab the games right here.

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Riot rolls out automated, instant bans for League of Legends trolls – League of Legends developer Riot Games is taking new steps to handle problem players more quickly and automatically, introducing a system to identify and ban players engaging in “verbal harassment” as quickly as 15 minutes after the end of a match. Riot explains how the new system works in a post on its Player Behavior blog. After teammates or opponents report a League player for “homophobia, racism, sexism, death threats, and other forms of excessive abuse,” Riot’s automated system will validate those reports, determine whether they’re worthy of punishment, and send a “reform card” that pairs chat log evidence of the behavior with an explanation of the punishment.

The 10 Most-Pirated Movies – There are two new flicks that made it onto the most-pirated movies list this week: Home, starring Rihanna, and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, starring Antonio Banderas. If you want to learn more about these movies, as well as the eight other films that were popular among pirates, check out the slideshow linked both above and below for more information.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates battle in new National Geographic series – The TV channel is launching a show called “American Genius” that’s about bitter rivalries, including the Wright Brothers vs. Curtiss, Colt vs. Wesson and Oppenheimer vs. Heisenberg.

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In May 2007, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got together for a rare–and amicable–joint appearance at the D5 technology conference.

Over 4 billion people still have no Internet connection – The number of people using the Internet is growing at a steady rate, but 4.2 billion out of 7.4 billion will still be offline by the end of the year. Overall, 35.3 percent of people in developing countries will use the Internet, compared to 82.2 percent in developed countries, according to data from the ITU (International Telecommunication Union). People who live in the so-called least developed countries will the worst off by far: In those nations only 9.5 percent will be connected by the end of December.

Largest photo ever is a 46TB image of the Alps – The world’s largest photo keeps getting bigger, and at this point it’s far too big to store on your laptop’s hard drive. The latest image to earn the title is a massive shot of the Alps that took more than two weeks to fully photograph and that takes up an astounding 46TB of space. With an image this big, you can zoom in, and in, and in, up to an incredible level of detail. Zoom all the way out, though, and you’re graced with an unprecedented photograph of the mountains. This latest record-setting image was very much a dedicated effort, requiring a total of 70,000 photographs to assemble.

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You Can Now Buy a Lock of Mozart’s Hair If You Are Rich and Insane – If you love Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and have $20,000 to blow, you can head to Sotheby’s auction house in London this week and bid on a genuine lock of the composer’s hair. The Guardian reports that the ancient gray strands have been passed down through generations of musicians and come inside a gold locket with a note claiming they sprouted from the scalp of one of music’s greatest composers, who died in 1791. If you’re a less-rich-but-equally-insane classical music fan, you can bid on a smaller lock of genuine Beethoven hair that is expected to sell for around $5,000. Also up for auction this week is an invitation to Beethoven’s funeral.

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The best time to drink coffee for maximum jolt? Video has answers – Let the folks at AsapScience open your eyes to a new strategy for consuming your coffee at precisely the right time to boost the buzz.

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Creationist: The Flintstones was an accurate portrayal of Dino-human coexistence – Ken Ham, an Australian young-Earth creationist, says he is on the verge of proving that dinosaurs and humans coexisted only a couple of thousand years ago. According to a report on news.com.au, Ham – along with a Dr David Menton – declared that he will soon publish “world-changing” evidence disproving that dinosaurs were present on the earth over 65 million years ago. “It is understood Mr Ham will claim that a bunch of donated Edmontosaurus bones are only a few thousand years old, based on the fact that they still contain remnants of bone marrow,” the Australian news site said.

Dealing with an infection lowers your IQ for up to 15 years – A new study conducted in Denmark makes the bold claim that infections can lead to a decrease in your cognitive ability severe enough to show up on diagnostic exams like an IQ test. The study consisted of more than 180,000 participants thanks to Denmark’s universal health care system. A little more than a third of the people in the study were diagnosed with a general infection at a Danish hospital between 1977 and 2012. Those who presented with infections showed a slight decline in cognitive ability compared to the average, with the IQ measurements made in 2006-2012. The effect was small — a single infection dropped the IQ of participants by 1.76 points, but those with five infections saw an average reduction in IQ of 9.44 points.

Something to think about:

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

–      Vince Lombardi

Today’s Free Downloads:

Glary Disk Cleaner – Protect your privacy, optimize system performance, and release considerable disk space.

Features:

Intuitive and easy to use interface

Support Ignore List, exclude files which don’t want to be deleted

Professional rapid scanning kernel

Support custom cleaning up temporary files

Clean up history at a glance

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SSuite Office – Gif Animator – An easy to use gif animator and slide show creator. Just load your images into the list, and press create.

All animated files created with Gif Animator are completely compatible with all current web browsers for viewing.

Supports jpg, jpeg, and bmp images.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Steve Wozniak: Edward Snowden is ‘a Hero to Me’ – Steve Wozniak reaffirmed his staunch support for digital privacy in an interview over the weekend in which the Apple co-founder called National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden “a hero.”

Wozniak, who helped build Apple [fortune-stock symbol=”AAPL”] with Steve Jobs before leaving the tech giant in the mid-1980’s, has expressed an affinity for Snowden in the past. Over the weekend, Wozniak reiterated his admiration for Snowden in an interview with ArabianBusiness.com in which the inventor said Snowden “gave up his own life . . . to help the rest of us.”

Wozniak went on to tell the publication more on his feelings about Snowden:

“‘Total hero to me; total hero,’ he gushes. ‘Not necessarily [for] what he exposed, but the fact that he internally came from his own heart, his own belief in the United States Constitution, what democracy and freedom was about. And now a federal judge has said that NSA data collection was unconstitutional.’”

Skype hauled into court after refusing to hand call records to cops – Skype has been called to appear before a court in Belgium after refusing to hand over customer data following a request for assistance in a criminal investigation.

A court in Mechelen near Brussels wanted “data from messages and calls exchanged on Microsoft-owned Skype”, a regulatory requirement that a Belgian telecoms operator would be required to comply with.

The Microsoft-owned firm declined, Reuters reports.

The case turns on the legal question of whether or not a VoIP service such as Skype should be treated as a telecoms operator in Belgium and therefore be subject to the same laws. It’s unclear how serious the alleged crimes under investigation are, much less the identity of the suspect or suspects.

In response to a request for comment, Microsoft outlined its reasons for contesting the case without going into detail on the specifics or the legal arguments it intends to field.

UK porn laws might mean ID checks with the post office – The UK’s plans to introduce mandatory age checks for viewing pornography online could involve verifying users’ identities via third parties such as banks, mobile operators, credit agencies, or even the post office. The country’s Conservative party pledged to introduce such age checks earlier this year, and following their recent re-election, discussions have reportedly begun between the technology industry and the government over ways to implement the checks.

The Digital Policy Alliance (DPA), a nonpartisan body that offers advice on technology policy in the UK, has suggested using “information already on file” to carry out the checks. “Nobody in the UK wants a centralized identity database,” Dr Rachel O’Connell, an expert on online child safety advising the DPA, told The Guardian. “The way around that is that Royal Mail knows who you are, your mobile operator knows who you are.”

O’Connell suggests that users visiting porn sites could choose which organization would verify their ID, with their request and the organization’s reply transmitted through an “anonymizing hub” to protect their identity. A regulator could then block sites that don’t offer age checks, with the Authority for Television on Demand — the body that regulates online video streaming — expected to be given this role.

EU to David Cameron: Leave porn alone! – The UK and its leading Conservative government have been looking for a long time now at ways toblock online pornography, in the name of children’s safety. But it looks like the EU is not at all happy with the country’s approach, which it deems to be against the people’s interests.

A leaked EU document showed that David Cameron’s approach to online pornography – have it banned by default and make people opt in – has not been viewed in positive terms in Brussels. The issue of net neutrality comes up, with the EU reportedly considering making the PM’s plan illegal. Instead, the European officials would opt for a system that allows pornography by default with users, then being able to opt into a deal where the ISP blocks such content. The user would also be able to back out of the agreement with the ISP at any time.

John Carr, a government adviser on online safety and security for children and an executive member on the board of the UK council on Child Internet Safety, was quick to mention that such a proposal from the EU would destroy “a major plank of the UK’s approach to online child protection”.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – May 25, 2015

Who’s That? Facebook Messenger Adds ‘Caller ID';  Boat safely with the help of the US Coast Guard mobile app;  14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure;  iOS 9 will work with your old iPhone;  Tips for buying used and unlocked phones;  How your iPhone can help you in a medical emergency;  5 Secret Amazon Prime Perks You Don’t Know About;  Meet OneClip, Microsoft’s cross-platform universal clipboard;  Here’s the 1 Trick to Getting People to Like Your Photos;  2.8 million victims squared up by malicious Minecraft;  Database of 4 million Adult Friend Finder users leaked for all to see;  Watch a robot sew a grape’s skin back on;  Google patents kids toys with hidden microphones, cameras;  IC3 urges social media users to beware: scams and fraud are surging;  These 20 deep, absorbing PC games will eat days of your life;   Russia threatens to block Google, Facebook, and Twitter if they don’t turn over blogger data;  IceCream Media Converter (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Boat safely and keep others informed with the help of the US Coast Guard mobile app – Boating season kicks off this weekend and while many recreational boaters do not have advanced navigation and communications equipment, they do have a smartphone. Install the USCG mobile app to stay informed and improve safety.

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Who’s That? Facebook Messenger Adds ‘Caller ID’ – Do you have so many friends on Facebook that sometimes you forget who they are? Me neither, but some people are super popular and need a reminder about whether they’re talking to Matt from work, Matt from college, or Matt from the bar last weekend. For those folks, Facebook is adding “caller ID” for Facebook Messenger. Now, when someone contacts you on the chat app, Facebook will display a larger photo and identifying information.

How your iPhone can help you in a medical emergency – The Health app on your iPhone can be of help in a medical crisis. But you need to make sure your medical data stored in the app is accessible to a doctor or hospital. Here’s how to do just that.

iOS 9 will work with your old iPhone – Apple’s next iPhone and iPad software tipped to focus on quality, will work on older devices. Word this week is that the next operating system suite for Apple mobile and desktop machines will be aimed at delivering a highest-quality experience to the user. Not that Apple products with iOS or OS X didn’t promise this before, but this round it’s suggested that every product released over the past several years will be getting onboard with the same top-notch quality experience, working well top to bottom.

Tips for buying used and unlocked phones – Summary:You can save money and pick up some quality hardware if you know where to shop and what to avoid. Matthew Miller has the details.

5 Secret Amazon Prime Perks You Don’t Know About – Every year when my Amazon Prime membership is about to auto-renew, like the tens of millions of other members, I take a step back and wonder if the $99 per year price is worth it. So what keeps me re-upping my subscription? There’s a slew of other Amazon Prime benefits that, when all added up, are worth much more than the shipping savings alone. Here are five of the lesser-known Prime perks:

Google’s new ‘Literata’ font makes ebooks beautiful – You expect different fonts in the books you read than on the Web pages you read, and so it is common for some fonts to only be found in books — they’re tailored for the long-form reading experience, and altogether visually pleasant. Apple will reportedly be switching up its system fonts for better readability, and Google is doing something similar with its Google Play Books specifically. The Internet giant has unveiled a new font specifically for ebooks, and it’s called “Literata”.

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See all 38 new Emoji here, before Unicode approves – The newest batch of proposed Emoji have been released (in proposal mode) this morning. These 38 new images include such gems as Drooling Face, Raised Back of Hand, and Croissant. The list includes notes about proposed popularity, including suggestions based on Google searches. Imagine how popular a Selfie Emoji will be with Google hits at 233,000,000 in text and 138,000,000 in images. People want these tiny representations of complex ideas, and they want them now. Immediately! Before they have to resort to words!

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Ed Bott: With build 10122, Windows 10 finally starts coming together – Summary:It’s not a release candidate, but the latest Windows 10 preview has plenty of interesting new features and apps to explore. Here are some first impressions on what’s improved and what’s still missing in action.

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Meet OneClip, Microsoft’s cross-platform universal clipboard – Microsoft is working on a new app called OneClip and the app lets you copy contents from any device to another, regardless of the platform and we have gotten our hands on the new product.

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Instagram ‘highlights’ emails hitting your inbox soon – Instagram is getting on board with email. The popular social network started sending out “highlights” emails to some of its users this month. Like Twitter’s similar “best of” emails, the messages serve up a sort of recap of what’s been going on in your social network. More importantly for Instagram, the emails serve as a way to keep the photo sharing service at the front of users’ minds. An email here or there can help occasional users interact with the service without committing to opening the app every day or week.

Here’s the 1 Trick to Getting People to Like Your Photos – Researchers at Yahoo, in partnership with a professor at Georgia Tech, have published a new study analyzing how filters impact engagement on Yahoo’s photo-sharing site Flickr. According to the study, filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed than non-filtered photos and 45% more likely to be commented on. Photos with filters that project warm colors tend to drive more engagement than cooler filters (though we’re unconvinced anyone ever “likes” photos filtered with Kelvin, the overly orange tint available on Instagram)

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Multitask like a champ with PinTasking on pre-Android Lollipop devices – PinTasking makes switching between two frequently used apps on a KitKat or earlier device a breeze. See how simple it is to use this free Android multitasking app.

One year with the Surface Pro 3: The best computer I have ever owned – I bought my Surface Pro 3 in May 2014 and it quickly became my primary computer for my home office, while accompanying me on 20 out-of-town trips. It’s my only tablet, with an iPad Mini and Nexus 9 coming and going because they were redundant and offered less. I’ve used my Surface Pro 3 in a number of different ways and in different situations so let me take you through my last year of usage.

Security:

14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure: Often, open-source software is the most secure – The latest Edward Snowden leaks have shown that the oldest, least funded open-source technologies are still able to hold out against intrusions and exploits by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Open-source offers one major benefit over their closed-source counterparts: The code is public and available for inspection, and therefore can’t as easily include secret backdoors for surveillance. Here are some of those (as of yet) still secure apps, services, and technologies that can keep you safe online.

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OpenDNS aims to offer malware and botnet protection, and Web filtering to home users. This can help prevent gaining access to sites that are honeypots for hackers, or might put users at risk. And best of all, it’s free.

Database of 4 million Adult Friend Finder users leaked for all to see – E-mail addresses, sexual orientations, and other sensitive details from almost four million AdultFriendFinder.com subscribers have been leaked onto the Internet following a hack that rooted the casual dating service, security researchers said. The cache includes more than 3.8 million unique e-mail addresses of current and former subscribers, Australian security researcher Troy Hunt reported early Friday morning. The data, which is in the form of 15 Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, was first seeded to anonymous sites hosted on the Tor privacy network. It has since spread to sites on the open Internet. Links to sites hosting the data are easily found on Twitter and other social networking sites, (Ars isn’t publishing the locations).

2.8 million victims squared up by malicious Minecraft apps – ESET researcher Lukas Stefanko says a whopping 2.8 million users have downloaded malicious Minecraft Android applications. Stefanko found 30 malicious apps uploaded to the Google Play store over nine months masquerading as Minecraft cheats and tip guides. Stefanko says “… several of them were installed between 100,000 and 500,000 times and the total number of installations of all 33 scareware applications lies between 660,000 and 2,800,000.”

IC3 urges social media users to beware: scams and fraud are surging – 12% of the 269,422 complaints received in 2014 had a social media aspect, be it doxing, clickjacking or pharming. Here’s how to stay safe.

How one US Embassy staffer allegedly sextorted hundreds from his desk – An American staffer at the United States Embassy in London has been accused of running a sextortion scheme—amazingly, primarily from his heavily monitored, government-owned work computer. Despite this, the embassy’s network security protocol apparently failed to flag the man’s behavior. Ford faces federal charges of stalking, extortion, and computer fraud, among others. To be clear, he is not accused of extorting money. During his detention hearing, according to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, the native Georgian is suspected of harassing hundreds of women, primarily university students.

Canadian teen pleads guilty to 23 charges for online harassment, bomb threats – A Canadian teen has pleaded guilty to 12 charges this week related to online harassment and “swatting” families across the US and Canada in 2013 and 2014. He had previously pleaded guilty to 11 other charges, bringing the total to 23 counts of extortion, public mischief, and criminal harassment. His actions, outlined in detail by Tri City News, follow a pattern of threats, doxing, and swatting. He would threaten his victims, hack their social media accounts and tweet out personal information, and then call the police to demand a ransom, while claiming to have bombs or guns at the homes of his victims. He also admitted to a bomb hoax that shut down Disneyland’s Space Mountain last year.

Company News:

BlackBerry slashes smartphone workforce – BlackBerry is axing jobs across its smartphone business, as the ailing Canadian company attempts to coax out a profit amid dwindling demand. The job losses, confirmed by BlackBerry this week, are a result of moves to “consolidate our device software, hardware and applications business,” a spokesperson for the firm said, with a renewed focus on pushing software and licensing revenues rather than relying on handsets that have singularly failed to set enterprise or consumer markets alight.

Google patents kids toys with hidden microphones, cameras – If your laptop’s webcam staring back at you gives you the willies, Google’s newly patented connected kids toys will bring a whole new level of creepiness. The patent details “an anthropomorphic device, perhaps in the form factor of a doll or toy, [that] may be configured to control one or more media devices.” Joining the description is an illustration showing a stuffed teddy bear and bunny rabbit with embedded microphones, cameras, speakers, and motors. We’ve a copy of the illustration after the jump!

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Microsoft’s Salesforce.com acquisition falls through due to price disagreements – The buyout, had it gone through, would have been the largest software company sale in history. According to sources familiar with the talks, Marc Benioff kept raising the price and at point wanted as high as $70 billion for the company, placing it well above Microsoft’s $55 billion offer. This large gap between what Microsoft was willing to pay and what Salesforce was seeking is reportedly the main reason the companies failed to reach an agreement.

AT&T et al challenging net neutrality order on 1st Amendment grounds – In a statement of issues that AT&T intends to raise when the case moves further into the court process, the company said last week that it plans on challenging whether the FCC’s net neutrality order “violates the terms of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and the First and Fifth Amendments to the US Constitution.” The First and Fifth Amendment will be used to attack the FCC’s decision to reclassify both fixed and mobile broadband as common carrier services, as well as the FCC’s assertion of authority over how ISPs interconnect with other networks.

Games and Entertainment:

These 20 deep, absorbing PC games will eat days of your life – Far too many games these days are built to be played in small bursts: brief encounters, designed for a world with too few hours in the day and too many digital distractions. And that’s fine! Blasting through a few rounds of Call of Duty multiplayer, or playing a few run-throughs in Spelunky, is a wonderful way to spend a few minutes. But sometimes, you want something more—something meatier. Whether you’re looking for an entertaining way to blow a long weekend or simply want to wrap your head around a satisfyingly complex experience, these 20 deep, intricate, and just plain great PC games will hold you for hours and hours and hours on end.

Mario Kart: Fury Road is the best Mad Max mash-up yet – The ridiculously fun new version of Mad Max has only been in theaters for a week, but the hot takes, memes, and mash-ups are already popping up with a fury. If you loved Mario Kart 64 as much as I did, it hits all the right notes: a flying blue shell takes out a lead car, there’s a scene on Rainbow Road, and the sound effects — my god, the sound effects! Excuse me while I head home and blow some dust out of my Mario Kart cartridge.

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HBO’s Game of Thrones continues to smash piracy records – HBO seems to have one of the best problems that a television network could have. Their mega hit Game of Thrones continues to break internet piracy records, and the show gets more viewers from illicit methods than many other TV shows get legitimately. It must be some form of a compliment when fans of the show who don’t have HBO will do anything they can to catch the latest episode. And in fact it’s the latest episode that once has once again set a new piracy record.

Steam isn’t helping gaming grow on Linux, usage drops to less than 1% – The rise of Linux on the desktop is always just around the corner, right? Most recently it was Valve’s new focus on Steam-powered Linux gaming that was supposed to boost the open source OS to new heights. However, the most recent Steam Hardware & Software Survey shows a big drop for Linux. It’s now less than 1% of Steam systems. Linux didn’t have all that much to lose before, at least. The usage share prior to the April report (that’s the most recent, obviously) was 1.05% and now it’s at 0.94%. The top OS is Windows by a huge margin with total usage share of 95.81%. Even OS X is more than tripling Linux usage with 3.16%.

Virtual reality wants to rule video games. Here’s who’ll rule VR – Soon you’ll don a high-tech headset as easily as you reach for your controller. Watch for blockbuster launches in the year ahead, with Facebook and Valve leading the charge.

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55 Movies and TV Shows Leaving Netflix in June – Below we bring you the complete, official list of what will be leaving the service in June, direct from Netflix HQ. But first, a quick look at the geekiest flicks (and one mini-series) to cram in before they get the boot.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Watch a robot sew a grape’s skin back on – As you can see in the video below, the claw-like hands are used not just to lay a small piece of grape skin back on the piece of fruit, but to then use sutures to sew it back in place. While the video shows off what the Single-Site Wristed Needle Driver can do, it also notes that the piece of equipment is pending FDA 510(k) clearance and does not yet have a CE mark. The disclosure at the end of clip states that the Single-Site instruments can be used for hysterectomies and the removal of ovaries and gallbladders.

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Justice Department releases guidelines on domestic drone use – The US Justice Department is the latest to provide policy guidelines on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). On Friday it published its guidelines laying out how federal law enforcement agencies may (and may not) use the remote-controlled vehicles. So far, the FBI is the only agency within the department to use the drones in missions. In a five page document, the department says that UAVs may not be used to monitor any activities protected by the First Amendment, such as peaceful protests and demonstrations. In addition, law enforcement must “seek a warrant in circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy,” consistent with the Constitution.

NASA astronaut records stunning view as he flies across the night sky – Astronauts aboard the International Space Station don’t need to flick on the TV to help them fall asleep at night. They can just look out the window. This weekend, Commander Terry Virts, who’s been aboard the station since November, gave us Earthbound folk a look at just what we’re missing. A video posted to his Twitter account shows the absolutely surreal view from aboard ISS as it hurtles around the Earth at roughly 17,000 mph. As the stars slip below the horizon, they meet the rapidly-moving lights from the surface. It’s utterly stupendous.

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Do You Remember Your First Cell Phone? – The thought of having a phone without instant access to email, maps, Facebook, Instagram, and texts is a foreign concept, and a day without a phone is like a day without air. But it wasn’t always this way, of course. In the 90s and early aughts, all we wanted was a mobile phone with acceptable voice quality that didn’t weigh 5 pounds or cost $4 per minute. It was an amazing time to be alive.

Scientists Reconstruct the Life of a Bronze Age Sun-Worshipping Priestess – During the summer of 1370 BCE, a young woman died in Egtved, Denmark. She was between 16 and 18 years old, and her immaculate burial suggests she was from a high status family. Slim, blonde, and 5’3” tall, the girl has become known to history as the Egtved Girl—one of the most well-preserved human specimens from Bronze Age Europe. Except, as it turns out, the Egtved Girl was not from Egtved at all. According to a fascinating new study published this week in Scientific Reports, this teenager traveled widely during her short life, and she likely grew up near the Black Forest in Germany, some 500 miles away from where she was buried, as the crow flies.

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Reconstruction of Egtved Girl’s clothes. Image: Eigenes Wirk

Here’s what it looks like when your rocket launch aborts – A pilot’s eye view of what happens when a rocket launch goes wrong is not something most would like to experience, but SpaceX can help you live it vicariously. Elon Musk’s commercial space flight company has released capsule footage from the Dragon craft used in the launch abort system test completed successfully earlier this month, a vital backup should something go wrong when the ship starts taking human passengers up into Earth’s atmosphere and beyond.

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Watch: This Real-Life Hoverboard Is Almost Impossible to Believe – But it’s real, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

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Meditation can make you miserable, psychologist says – Technically Incorrect: Meditation and mindfulness may be milestones on the road to bliss, but you may also end up in a ditch of despair, says a brain expert.

Something to think about:

“The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.”

–      Oscar Wilde

Today’s Free Downloads:

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

Audio and video formats supported:

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

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Farbar Recovery Scan Tool – Farbar Recovery Scan Tool, or FRST, is a portable application designed to run in normal or safe mode to diagnose malware issues. It is also possible to run FRST in the Windows Recovery Environment in order to diagnose and fix boot issues.

This program will display detailed information about the Windows Registry loading points, services, driver services, Netsvcs entries, known DLLs, drives, and partition specifications. It will also list some important system files that could be patched by malware.

Note: There are both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Farbar Recovery Scan Tool available. Please pick the version that matches your operating system’s bit type. If you don’t know which version matches your system, you may try both of them. Only one of them will run on your system.

Limitations: If you are using Windows XP and have boot issue, the system should boot to the Recovery Environment using a PE Boot CD and then you can run FRST

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA is getting ready to shut down bulk surveillance programs in response to failed Senate vote – After a late Senate vote after midnight on Friday, the NSA is starting to take moves to shut down its bulk surveillance programs. With the legal foundation of those programs, the Patriot Act, set to expire at the end of the month, lawmakers have been working to agree on which parts of the mass surveillance systems should stay and which should go. The Senate failed to pass a replacement bill, the USA Freedom Act, and another measure proposed by Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) to extend the program as-is also did not pass.

County sheriff has used stingray over 300 times with no warrant – The sheriff in San Bernardino County—east of Los Angeles County—has deployed a stingray hundreds of times without a warrant, and under questionable judicial authority.

In response to a public records request, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) sent Ars, among other outlets, a rare example of a template for a “pen register and trap and trace order” application. (In the letter, county lawyers claimed this was a warrant application template, when it clearly is not.) The SBSD is the law enforcement agency for the entire county, the 12th-most populous county in the United States, and the fifth-most populous in California.

Stingrays, or cell-site simulators, can be used to determine location by spoofing a cell tower, but they can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone as well as information from other phones within the vicinity. For years, federal and local law enforcement have tried to keep their existence a secret while simultaneously upgrading their capabilities. Over the last year, as the devices have become scrutinized, new information about the secretive devices has been revealed.

This template application, surprisingly, cites no legal authority on which to base its activities. The SBSD did not respond to Ars’ request for comment.

Cops don’t have to give man his own license plate reader data, court finds – A San Diego, California court has ruled that a tech entrepreneur will not be allowed to access his license plate reader (LPR) records from a regional government agency.

Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal handed down a six-page decision to Michael Robertson, finding that he does not have the right, under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), to access records of his own license plate as scanned by members of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

Judge Bacal found that the LPR records were exempt from the CPRA, under a provision of the law that protects “records of investigation,” and under a catch-all section if releasing such records is not in the public interest. As she wrote in the Statement of Decision:

Petitioner has not articulated how his LPR data will contribute to the public’ s understanding of the government. On the other hand, disclosure of the LPR data will be detrimental to the public’s interest. As explained above, the data is collected and used to investigate criminal-activity, and disclosure of that information can be used to hinder law enforcement’s efforts to identify and apprehend criminals and to protect ‘victims of criminal activity. The Court finds the public interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

The decision against Robertson, who has been involved in some high-profile legal disputes with the recording industry for over a decade, is the second one this month where courts have found that the petitioners do not have the right to access such data.

Russia threatens to block Google, Facebook, and Twitter if they don’t turn over blogger data – The Guardian reported last week that Russia is demanding Google, Twitter, and Facebook to hand over all data on any Russian bloggers who get more than 3,000 hits per day. Russia states that not doing so is a violation of its internet laws and websites found breaking these laws could be met with serious sanctions.

According to the Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal branch responsible for media oversight, the encryption employed by these companies does not allow Russia to block specific content that it deems inappropriate. This could potentially result in the blocking of these services entirely if they refuse to turn over the data and block posts by Russian bloggers that call for “unsanctioned protests and unrest”.

Critics of the Russian government are viewing this as a serious crackdown on freedom of speech. President Vladimir Putin has grown increasingly concerned with the openness of the internet and difficultly of regulating content. In the past, he has gone as far as calling the internet a project of the CIA.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – May 22, 2015

NSA planned Google Play hack to target Android smartphones;  14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure;  How to prevent mobile malware in 3 easy steps;  How to restart your Android phone into safe mode;  The 20 best Android apps for kids;  Five precautions for avoiding malware when you download and install software;  30 Google Drive Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss;  Mileage trackers made easy;  The Best Free Antivirus for 2015;  9 malware defenders;  Your Secret Questions Are Just as Terrible As Your Passwords;  Google Will Retool Its Maps Service To Prevent Racist Listings;   The 20 best free Android games to play right now;  Ransomware rescue kit released to combat criminal enterprise;   Microsoft, Facebook, Google And The Future Of Voice Communications.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

NSA planned Google Play hack to target Android smartphones – The project, first published Wednesday by CBC News and The Intercept, sought to exploit the smartphone operating system for surveillance. Dubbed “Irritant Horn” by the NSA, the agency planned to hack and hijack the connections to app stores and direct users to spyware. That spyware would collect data and send it back to the NSA without the user noticing. The newly-released document shows how the NSA and its partner agencies in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, wanted to launch man-in-the-middle attacks, a process of tapping into the connection between a user and a server, to install the spyware implant.

14 privacy tools you should use to stay secure – From encrypted instant messengers to secure browsers and operating systems, these privacy-enhancing apps, extensions, and services can protect you both online and offline.

How to prevent mobile malware in 3 easy steps – Most malicious software is found in third-party app stores popular in a few countries that are loaded with pirated versions of software or trojanized applications. While Symantec automatically discovered and analyzed 6.3 million mobile apps in 2014, for example, there are only about 1.5 million apps in the Google Play store and fewer than that in the Apple App Store, according to AppFigures, meaning that two-thirds of applications from other sources make up the majority of data. Paying heed to the data, three simple steps are recommended for North American users.

How to restart your Android phone into safe mode – Safe mode is indispensable when it comes to troubleshooting pesky software problems on your computer. But have you ever wished that a similar feature existed on your Android device? It does, and it’s easy to use: Here’s how to restart your Android phone into safe mode.

The Top Tablets for Your Kids – The iPad is not the only tablet on the market that will appeal to your tech-savvy toddler, tween, or teen. There are a number of Android-based slates that won’t break the bank, Amazon has a kid-focused Kindle Fire, and toy manufacturers are turning their attention toward rugged tablets that can withstand a few drops, crashes, or throws. If the child in your life has been begging for a tablet, or keeps stealing yours, check out our list of the top tablets you should consider.

Learn by doing and exploring with the 20 best Android apps for kids – Whether it’s after school hours or during those long holidays, handing your child a phone or tablet doesn’t have to mean they’re frying their brain through dreaded “screen time.” Instead these educational apps and games show that they can investigate new concepts, practice math, and play games that will sharpen their skills. So check out our roundup of the 20 best selections for kids to get your child hooked on apps that will help them get excited about learning and develop those imperative problem-solving skills.

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Mileage trackers made easy – Tracking mileage can be tedious–but it’s also necessary, whether you need to report it to the IRS or file for reimbursement from your employer. And if your system involves scribbling odometer readings and meeting names on scraps of paper, I have good news for you: There’s an easier way. Here are three apps that make tracking and reporting your miles a whole lot easier.

Adblock Plus’ new Firefox-based browser eradicates ads on Android devices – ABP announced the new effort on Wednesday with an open beta that anyone can join. Unfortunately it’s not exactly a hassle-free process, and at this writing the browser was still awaiting approval from Google before appearing in the Play Store. When it does show up, you can get in on the beta by joining the ABP Browser Google+ community and then click the (at this writing, non-existent) Beta Opt-in button under the About section. The button will appear once Google approves the browser for Play.

30 Google Drive Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss – After almost a decade, Google Drive has come a long way in its own maturity. Anyone with a Google account—the kind you have for Gmail or any other Google service—gets instant instant access to the tools. Businesses, schools, and non-profits have the option of using Google Apps, a version of Google Drive with all the storage and tools, plus integration of Gmail, Calendar, Sites, and more under their own domain name. Drive—one of our Editors’ Choice suites—is a serious set of tools for serious (or fun) work, all entirely free. But it pays to know more than just the basics. That’s why we’ve put together these 30 tips for you on how to get the most out of Google Drive.

4 Gmail Labs features you should be using – To enable any Gmail Lab feature, click the gear icon in the top left of the Gmail pane. Go to Settings > Labs. Scroll down to the feature you want, select the Enable radio button, and click Save Changes. Should you run into trouble using any of these, you can get to your email by going to https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?labs=0, which disables these features so you can reach your inbox. Assuming you’re comfortable being Gmail’s guinea pig, here are four Google Labs features you should experiment with yourself.

Microsoft is rolling out a large update to Outlook.com: Clutter, themes, add-ins and more – Microsoft has announced today a major update to Outlook.com that will bring with it new features designed to improve productivity by delivering a refined inbox, improved collaboration and more.

Debunked: Your SSD won’t lose data if left unplugged after all – If you’re in a panic because the Internet told you that your shiny new SSD may lose data in “just a few days” when stored in a hot room, take a chill pill—it’s apparently all a huge misunderstanding, according to the man who wrote the original presentation all the fear is based on. In a conversation with Kent Smith of Seagate and Alvin Cox, the Seagate engineer who wrote the presentation that set the Internet abuzz, PCWorld was told we’re all just reading it wrong.

Firefox to get more ads via upcoming ‘Suggested Tiles’ – Firefox’s previous introduction of in-tab advertisements didn’t go over well with many users, but the outcry apparently wasn’t high enough to reverse things. Today Mozilla announced “Suggested Tiles”, which are advertisements that appear as tiles inside of a new tab. It differs a bit from the previous Directory Tiles (it is said to be a “complement” to them), and works by presenting content from advertisers that are personalized based on the user’s own activity. It is promised the ads are fully “user controlled”.

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Snapchat starts dabbling with music videos – Snapchat has been slowly but surely expanding its reach, adding in content from various partners in an effort to draw in more users and advertisers. Latest to give the mobile service a shot is Josh Legg, a musician who goes by the name Goldroom. Given that some of his fanbase has started increasingly using Snapchat as a communication medium, he has decided to partner with the messaging service and will release four music videos on it. The first video came out on Tuesday, and the last one is scheduled to be released tomorrow.

Court orders Popcorn Time websites be blocked by Israeli ISPs – With its nickname of “Netflix for pirates,” the app/service Popcorn Time has quickly become popular the world over among, well, internet pirates, and with new features like the ability to watch content in a web browser, media giants and copyright holders are quickly becoming concerned. Following a similar move in the UK last month, media companies in Israel have successfully petitioned a court to order the nation’s internet service providers block all Popcorn Time websites.

Google Will Retool Its Maps Service To Prevent Racist Listings – Google has confirmed that it is making changes to its Google Maps service to stop racist terms and other inappropriate words from displaying location search results. The issue blew up this week after searches for “n*****” or “nigga” were found to pull up the White House and other locations associated with African Americans and other ethnic minorities.

Security:

The Best Free Antivirus for 2015 – While you certainly get your money’s worth from the premium antivirus software, there are also some very good third-party antivirus tools that don’t cost a thing. We’ve rounded up a collection of totally free antivirus products that should serve you well. Your antivirus should definitely have the ability to root out existing malware, but its ongoing task is to prevent any nasty programs from getting a foothold. All of the antivirus programs in this collection offer real-time protection against malware attack. Some take the fight upstream, working hard to ensure you never even browse to a malware-hosting site.

9 malware defenders – Keeping your computer clean and secure requires more than removing viruses. Many pieces of malicious code are designed to circumvent antivirus protection. These applications can range from minor annoyances like potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) to advertisements (adware) to outright malicious software (malware and spyware) that can cripple your day-to-day usage. We tested some of the latest and greatest antimalware kits that can help you before your PC is compromised. These Windows apps will work in conjunction with your current antivirus software as an additional layer of protection.

Five precautions for avoiding malware when you download and install software – Downloading a program—especially one from an obscure publisher without a positive reputation—is something of a leap of faith. It’s a bit like letting a total stranger into your home. But if you follow these five steps, you should be okay.

Flawed Android factory reset leaves crypto and login keys ripe for picking – The researchers tested the factory reset of 21 Android smartphones that ran versions 2.3.x to 4.3 of the mobile OS and were sold by five manufacturers. All of the phones retained at least some fragments of old data, including contact data stored in the phone app and third-party apps such as Facebook and What’sApp, images and video from the camera, and text-based conversations from SMS and e-mail apps. In 80 percent of phones, the researchers were able to extract the master token Android uses to give access to most Google user data, such as Gmail and Google calendar.

Google, Samsung, and 16 others receive post-password certification – This morning, the plot to kill the password got a little stronger. 18 different companies received an official FIDO certification for 31 different products, ranging from physical devices to login services. They’re the first products to be officially certified under the specification, opening the door for interoperating services down the road. The services aren’t comprehensive enough to do away with passwords entirely, and not all of them have been deployed — but once they are, anyone using the systems will have a robust alternative to simply typing in a string of characters.

Your Secret Questions Are Just as Terrible As Your Passwords – Not only do we use awful passwords, but we can’t even remember the answers to our secret questions, Google finds.

Ransomware rescue kit released to combat criminal enterprise – Often infecting computers through phishing campaigns and malicious links, the malware locks systems and displays a message — often masquerading as police or an intelligence agency — and accuses the victim of illegal activities. The notice demands payment in a certain timeframe in order to provide a key to unlock a system and its files — which may or may not work. In order to combat this kind of criminal enterprise, security professional Jada Cyrus has compiled a rescue kit which is available for free online. Designed to help “streamline the process of responding to ransomware infections,” the ransomware response kit comes with instructions and decryption tools for different strains of ransomware.

Company News:

Uber is One Step Closer to Picking You Up in a Self-driving Car – Uber users are a step closer being chauffeured around town in driverless cars. The ride hailing service has started testing a self-driving car as part of plan to automate rides and eliminate the cost of drivers, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times. The test car was recently spotted on the road in Pittsburgh, where Uber has opened a research lab. The car, with “Uber Advanced Technologies Center” emblazoned on the side, had what appeared to be equipment for autonomous navigation affixed to its roof.

HP’s profit slips 21% as services business stumbles – Hewlett-Packard has reported another drop in quarterly revenue and profit, with a notable 16% slide in its enterprise services business. The company said it’s on track to divide itself into two companies later this year, but made a last-minute change to its leadership plans: CFO Cathie Lesjak will move to HP Inc., the division that will sell PCs and printers, and not to HP Enterprise, as originally planned. HP has been trying to expand its business for a few years without success, and the split is a bold gambit to see if can perform better as two companies. Revenue slipped 7% in the quarter ended April 30, to $25.5 billion — its 15th straight quarter of declining sales.

Lenovo Q4: Revenue boost rides on record PC sales – Lenovo has taken a financial hit in Q4 FY2014/2015, but the firm’s fourth quarter financial report does show increased revenue and sales figures. The Chinese PC maker reported on Thursday Q4 net income of $100 million with earnings of $0.91 cents per share, falling 37 percent from $253 million in the third quarter of FY2014/2015 due to the closure of acquisitions as well as currency fluctuations. ( statement)

Report: Google prepping Android-based ‘Internet of Things’ operating system – The Information reports that Google is building an Android-powered operating system code-named Brillo that will run on low-powered devices with as little as 32 MB of RAM. Also, no screen would be required to run the software. By comparison, the typical Android smartphone has at least 512 MB of memory. The report says the operating system is the work of Google’s Android team, so it will carry some type of Android branding. It also could connect into Google’s Nest thermostats, which have demonstrated the capability to connect to Android Wear and Google Now.

Tech IPO Scorecard: Shopify Skyrockets 51%, While Baozun Rises A Slimmer 4.6% – Two tech companies went public today, both posting first-day gains. The Canadian Shopify popped a massive 51 percent, while Baozun picked up a slimmer 4.6 percent. While seeing your share price appreciate on your IPO day is always welcome, Baozun had to work harder to get its pop than Shopify.

Games and Entertainment:

The 20 best free Android games to play right now – Most new games that launch on the Play Store tend to be free, but too many feel like business models disguised as entertainment. Luckily, not every free game is like that. In fact, some of them are pretty excellent. Sure, some of these games have ads or opportunities to spend money, but those small annoyances are easily outweighed by great fun and long-lasting amusement. Looking for some worthwhile games to play that don’t cost anything and won’t lose steam after a few early minutes of fun? Here are 20 worth downloading right away.

The Witcher 3 gets a graphics-boosting PC patch as furor erupts over visual quality – One of the ugliest bits about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s launch has been the ongoing controversy about the “graphics downgrade” on PC. If you’re not familiar, Kirk Hamilton’s written a pretty excellent summary at Kotaku. Basically, in-game Witcher 3 doesn’t look quite up to snuff compared to a 2013 early gameplay trailer for The Witcher 3—and some argue it doesn’t even look as good as The Witcher 2 at times. The Witcher 3 isn’t exactly the graphics card-punishing beast we all expected (unless you activate Nvidia’s HairWorks option with an AMD Radeon graphics card, that is). To that end, CD Projekt released a patch today that should clear up some of your woes. Maybe. Here’s the full list of changes, most of them related to graphics and performance:

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YouTube launches 60fps live streaming in quest to take on Twitch – While the 60fps streaming isn’t just for gaming content, YouTube notes that it will mean “silky smooth playback for gaming and other fast-action videos.” The feature is available now as an “early preview,” and will work in any browser that supports HTML5. “We’ll also make your stream available in 30fps on devices where high frame rate viewing is not yet available,” the company explains, “while we work to expand support in the coming weeks.”

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Meet the new QuizUp, an addicting trivia game and social network – QuizUp is one of those games you can play for hours before realizing that you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and can’t escape. It’s about to get worse: The popular trivia game just relaunched with a social networking facet that’s more Reddit than Facebook. QuizUp, which launched about 18 months ago and has racked up 33 million users, also rolled out a desktop version of the game and a refreshed design on Thursday. But it’s the social features that Plain Vanilla CEO Thor Fridriksson believes will set his game apart from other addicting trivia apps (cough, Trivia Crack, cough).

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Windows 10 headed to Xbox One after the summer – Microsoft plans to put Windows 10 on everything from PCs to smartphones and tablets. That Windows 10 love will spill over to your Xbox One gaming console as well getting just about every hardware device Microsoft fiddles with into the Windows 10 love fest. If you are looking forward to trying out Windows 10 on your Xbox One exactly when it will land for the game console is a bit clearer now after some details were offered from Phil Spencer.

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Hauppauge’s Xbox One TV tuner is now available in the US and Canada – The Xbox One has long been what some have considered a robust entertainment machine. Today, Hauppauge’s OTA TV tuner is getting a general release for those in the U.S. and Canada. The Hauppauge Digital TV Tuner for the Xbox One is now available for $59.99 via Amazon and the Microsoft Store. For those interested in an antenna, Microsoft is also offering the Hauppauge Digital TV Tuner plus a Mohu Leaf 50 antenna for $99.99 for a limited time.

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BBC’s Grand Theft Auto movie earns it a lawsuit – In case you hadn’t heard, the BBC is working on a Grand Theft Auto movie and it, by all accounts, is progressing nicely. Or was up until the moment Rockstar Games slapped the BBC with a lawsuit. The lawsuit was recently filed against the BBC by Take-Two Interactive, which is Rockstar Games’ parent company. The reasons revolve around trademark infringement, and according to a statement Take-Two tried to work things out with the BBC before resorting to the legal route. Apparently the talks did not go well.

Off Topic (Sort of):

An unapologetic history of plane hacking: Beyond the hype and hysteria – Controversy over a security researcher’s alleged hacking into a plane’s engine mid-flight raises serious questions as to why years of public research on airline hacking has gone ignored.

Caffeine may help men wake up in more ways than one (wink, wink) – Science can’t seem to make its mind up whether caffeine is good or bad for us. One week, we might get a study saying caffeine is more likely to cause aliens to plant their spawn in our chest cavities, and the next, we might get another saying the stuff can give us the ability to fly and walk through walls. Recently, caffeine got another line of chalk in the win column, thanks to a study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Researchers there found that men who drink approximately two to three cups of coffee a day may have a lower risk of erectile dysfunction.

Bin Laden Might Have Trained Terrorists With a Video Game – The SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden recovered video game-related books from the Al Qaeda leader’s bunker, according to documents released Wednesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But was bin Laden just a gaming enthusiast or was he using the material to train terrorists?

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Microsoft, Facebook, Google And The Future Of Voice Communications – All of a sudden, it seems like Facebook, Google and Apple are climbing all over each other to own the voice interaction, and specifically, the phone conversation. They’re in a race to compete in the most valuable part of “social” — as if they’ve forgotten, until now, just how much humans ultimately value one-on-one conversation.

This week’s YouTube hit: How to scare a charging bear – Technically Incorrect: On a snowy trail in the woods, a bear meets a Swedish man — and apparently meets its match.

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Einstein considered a bigger hero than Jesus, says study – It seems that the biggest hero in the world is Einstein. As Phys.org reports, he’s bigger than Mother Teresa. He’s bigger than Martin Luther King Jr. He’s bigger than Jesus Christ (he came in sixth). Isaac Newton also came in above Jesus. He was fifth. That must make up a little for having a failed Apple product named after him. Thomas Edison came in eighth. Yes, above Abraham Lincoln and Buddha. Could there possibly have been a more positive sign for science? Only if one of the “Mythbusters” presenters had streaked past Jesus. The students who responded to this survey were, on average, 23 years old. They came from 37 countries. They all had quite similar notions of who their heroes were. They had very different notions about their villains.

Tech nostalgia: The top 10 innovations of the 1970s – In the decade of all things “groovy,” modern technology was advancing at lightning speed. Here are the most important innovations of the 1970s.

Something to think about:

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

–       William James

Today’s Free Downloads:

TeamViewer QuickSupport – TeamViewer is the fast, simple and friendly solution for remote access over the Internet – all applications in one single, very affordable module. This is the complete TeamViewer with install and uninstall support.

Desktop sharing has never been easier: With TeamViewer you will be able to connect to the desktop of a partner anywhere on the Internet.

TeamViewer also works in the other direction: Show your own desktop to a partner over the Internet and illustrate your own developed software, presentations or solutions.

Remote Control without Installation – With TeamViewer you can remotely control any PC anywhere on the Internet. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls.

Remote Presentation of Products, Solutions and Services – The second TeamViewer mode allows you to present your desktop to a partner. Show your demos, products and presentations over the Internet within seconds – live from your screen.

NOTE: Free for non-commercial use only.

Features:

Remote Control without Installation: With TeamViewer you can remotely control any PC anywhere on the Internet. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls.

Remote Presentation of Products, Solutions and Services: The second TeamViewer mode allows you to present your desktop to a partner. Show your demos, products and presentations over the Internet within seconds – live from your screen.

File Transfer: TeamViewer comes with integrated file transfer that allows you to copy files and folders from and to a remote partner – which also works behind firewalls

Works behind Firewalls: The major difficulties in using remote control software are firewalls and blocked ports, as well as NAT routing for local IP addresses.

If you use TeamViewer you don’t have to worry about  firewalls:  TeamViewer will find a route to your partner.

Highest Security Standard: TeamViewer is a very secure solution. The commercial TeamViewer versions feature completely secure data channels with key exchange and RC4 session encoding, the same security standard used by https/SSL.

No Installation Required: To install TeamViewer no admin rights are required. Just run the software and off you go…

High Performance: Optimized for connections over LANs AND the Internet, TeamViewer features automatic bandwidth-based quality selection for optimized use on any connection.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

New NSA documents reveal plans to deliver malware through the Google Play store – The NSA developed a plan to deliver malware through Google and Samsung app stores, according to newly published documents obtained by Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept. The documents details a program called IRRITANT HORN, which delivers malware by intercepting web traffic to and from mobile application servers. One slide details Samsung’s update protocol, while another pinpoints the Google Play servers in France, used to deliver updates to phones throughout northern Africa.

Once the path to those servers was established, the NSA could intercept traffic before it reached the servers, injecting malware to specific users through a man-in-the-middle attack. The files would appear to come from a trusted app store, but they would really be coming from the NSA. From there, the NSA could deliver tools from its extensive catalog of surveillance programs, including pulling a user’s contact list or reporting their location in near-real-time. Both Samsung and Google employ TLS encryption to protect against man-in-the-middle attacks like this, but cryptographers have been speculating for years that the NSA has found a way to break or circumvent those protections.

U.S. Senate leader to push for vote to renew NSA phone dragnet – The U.S. Senate on Thursday failed to move forward on efforts to extend the section of the Patriot Act that the National Security Agency has used to collect millions of domestic telephone records.

On Thursday, Senators were wrestling with three alternatives: Allow the Patriot Act’s records collection program to expire, extend the program with no new limits or pass a House of Representatives bill that aims to end bulk records collection but allows the NSA to search phone and business records in a more targeted manner.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said late Thursday he will push for a vote by the weekend to extend the Patriot Act’s records collection provisions.

Choose Deutsche Telekom for all your bargain spying needs – An Austrian newspaper has published what it claims is evidence that Deutsche Telekom spied on Vienna for German spooks for the miserly sum of just €6,500 a year.

On Tuesday, Peter Pilz publicly accused Deutsche Telekom of listening in on telephone and internet lines from Vienna, Luxembourg, Prague, Moscow and Ankara and passing the information on to the German national intelligence agency, the BND.

The document, secured by Pilz and published by Kronen Zeitung (known locally as “the Krone”), dates from March 2004. In it, Deutsche Telekom undertakes to pass on information “originating outside the Federal Republic of Germany” to the BND.

Last month, it emerged that the BND was happily turning over the fruits of its labours – including selectors such as IP addresses, emails and mobile phone numbers – to the United States’ National Security Agency.

U.S. proposes tighter export rules for computer security tools – The U.S. Commerce Department has proposed tighter export rules for computer security tools, a potentially controversial revision to an international agreement aimed at controlling weapons technology.

On Wednesday, the department published a proposal in the Federal Register and opened a two-month comment period.

The changes are proposed to the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international agreement reached in 1995 aimed at limiting the spread of “dual-use” technologies that could be used for harm.

Forty-one countries participate in the Wassenaar Arrangement, and lists of controlled items are revised annually.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is proposing requiring a license in order to export certain cybersecurity tools used for penetrating systems and analyzing network communications.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – May 20, 2015

Nearly 1/3 people use Facebook while driving;  How to get started with Linux: A beginner’s guide;  Majority of Americans “concerned” about NSA domestic surveillance;  In defense of ad-blockers, a vital tool for the privacy conscious;  How to back up and store photos when traveling;  Facebook Messenger video calling now rolling out to all;  Facebook Messenger platform’s next target: games;  13 apps for bettering your mental health;  Five Android-only apps worth a look;  Easily secure your web browsing with TunnelBear’s free Chrome extension;  Screenshots: A preview of Microsoft Windows 10;  Google reprimanded for YouTube Kids app showing inappropriate content;  How to upgrade graphics in a laptop;  Employees choose adult content, app downloads over security;  Process Hacker Portable (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Nearly 1/3 people use Facebook while driving – AT&T commissioned Braun Research poll finds nearly 1 out of every 3 people use Facebook while driving. Driving their automobile. On the road, in the United States, where you live. The study was done by poll, asking 2,067 in the United States aged between 16-65 who use their smartphone at least once a day AND drive at least once a day a number of questions. The least mind-blowing statistic in this study suggests that 62% of all drivers in the United States keep their smartphone within easy reach while driving. This means “in their hand, lap, or cup holder, or on the passenger seat or dash.” The rest is just nuts.

EFF’s Secure Messaging Scoreboard empowers developers and educates users – Most messaging apps are advertised as secure. The Electronic Frontier Foundation decided to verify those claims and then put its findings in a scoreboard. See which apps pass with flying colors.

In defense of ad-blockers, a vital tool for the privacy conscious – Look up. And then to the left and right. And somewhere in-between these words. You’ll see ads scattered all over the place, asking you to “buy this” or “click me,” or — if you’re really lucky — you’ll get one that takes over the entire page. Or you won’t. Millions instead opt to use an ad-blocker, a browser plugin that effectively scrubs every webpage from flashy, garish, and memory-consuming ads.

How to back up and store photos when traveling – Don’t lose your precious photo memories to a misplaced bag or stolen camera. Backing up your photos may seem daunting — especially on vacation — but it’s actually quite simple once you get started. Remember, the point of any backup solution is to ensure that you have multiple copies of your photos in different locations. Just having photos stored on an external hard drive and nowhere else does not make for a reliable backup.

Facebook Messenger video calling now rolling out to all – It’s time to freshen up, comb that hair, exercise that jaw, and maybe bring out the dictionary or translation guide. Facebook Messenger’s new video calling feature, which was announced barely a month ago, is now starting to roll out everywhere and on every platform. Messenger is shaping up to be one distinct and, more importantly, distinguishable product apart from Facebook’s main app, giving users the convenience of expressing themselves better, more immediately, and perhaps more creatively than they could with text, emoji, stickers, or even memes.

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How to easily secure your web browsing with TunnelBear’s free Chrome extension – Only need VPN-like protection for your browser and not your whole desktop? Check out TunnelBear for Chrome and Chrome OS. We’ve talked about the importance of virtual private networks before. They’re a great tool for protecting your browsing on an open Wi-Fi network or defeating regional restrictions when you need to.

Five Android-only apps worth a look – The mobile ecosystem is filled with wonderful apps that can do nearly anything you need. For the most part, these apps can be found across platforms. But a handful of important apps can be found on just one platform or the other. I wanted to highlight some of the high-quality apps you will find on only Android.

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

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Fedora Linux with the Gnome Shell desktop.

Screenshots: A preview of Microsoft Windows 10 – Windows 10 is coming and you’d better be prepared for it. Here are a few screenshots to get you started.

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Microsoft will charge for Windows 10 upgrades after one-year freebie offer lapses – It’s official: If you want to upgrade to Windows 10 without spending a dime, you’ll want to do so in the first year after it launches. Afterwards, it’ll cost money.

How to upgrade graphics in a laptop – Pssst—there’s a secret that few in the PC gaming community know: You actually can upgrade your big-fat gaming laptop’s graphics. But even the few who know it’s possible, believe it to not be worth the time and effort. After all, who wants to scour some obscure forum to find out whether blowing a wad of cash on a GPU from eBay will work? And then there’s the inherent risk of having the used GPU blow up after a month of use. Enter Eurocom, a Canadian laptop vendor that in February began offering one-stop-shop upgrade kits for consumers who want to take the risk of performing the equivalent of open-heart surgery on a laptop.

13 apps for bettering your mental health – May is Mental Health Month, a time to bring more attention to the subject, shed the stigma, and give people the care they deserve. Here are 12 apps trying to do just that.

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MY3 helps you stay connected when you are having thoughts of suicide.

Free music streaming service MixRadio launches on Android and iOS – Previously available exclusively on Windows Phone, MixRadio today announced its launch on Android and iOS. The company says that it is bringing “the world’s easiest and most personal music streaming experience” to these new platforms. And as part of that expansion, MixRadio is also teaming up with HTC to exclusively provide music updates for BlinkFeed on the manufacturer’s Android handsets.

Microsoft rolls out touch-first Office apps preview for Android phones – Microsoft is making available for Android phones public previews of its promised standalone touch versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The new Office for Android phone preview apps are similar to the touch-first Office apps preview for Windows phones that Microsoft made available to testers last week.

Inkscape: Open-source Illustrator sneaks up – While the bug fixes and performance improvements are welcome news in and of themselves, there are plenty of brand new features in this release. There’s a new Measurements tool that will live update the length of objects and angles as you move the mouse over them. The Text tool has also been significantly improved. The Text tool now defaults to points (pt) though you can change that to pixels, centimetres, inches and others, including the web-centric em. Even better, the em support actually works in this release, which should be a boon for anyone working with graphics destined for responsive websites. This release also features support for font faces beyond bold/italic and improved support for file formats created by other apps. Inkscape now works pretty well with Corel DRAW, EMF, and WMF files and even has support for Microsoft Visio diagrams.

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Creating illustrations in Inkscape .91

Apple Pay troubleshooting tips and tricks – Apple Pay is one of the newest, most secure payment methods on the block, but sometimes it just doesn’t work with every retailer every time. Here are some tips on how to troubleshoot Apple Pay.

Security:

HTTPS-crippling attack threatens tens of thousands of Web and mail servers – The vulnerability affects an estimated 8.4 percent of the top one million websites and a slightly bigger percentage of mail servers populating the IPv4 address space, the researchers said. The threat stems from a flaw in the transport layer security protocol that websites and mail servers use to establish encrypted connections with end-users. The new attack, which its creators have dubbed Logjam, can be exploited against a subset of servers that support the widely used Diffie-Hellman key exchange, which allows two parties that have never met before to negotiate a secret key even though they’re communicating over an unsecured, public channel.

DDoS attacks are getting worse, as attackers shift tactics and targets – Attackers that harness the power of thousands or millions of devices to flood networks with data are shifting tactics to pack a smaller, but much longer-lasting punch. How these attacks are carried out has also changed. Attackers are increasingly exploiting Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP), a common protocol in most modern networked devices — including routers media servers, webcams, and games consoles. With widely available tools, they can seek out misconfigured and unsecured devices connected to the internet to launch larger, coordinated attacks against their targets. Not only that, the target of these attacks has shifted. Little by little, malicious actors are shifting away from financial gain and making it a far more personal mission.

Enterprise employees choose adult content, app downloads over security – The majority of 1580 survey respondents worldwide said they understood the cybersecurity risks linked to downloading email attachments from unknown senders, viewing adult content, using social media and downloading unapproved applications, but this has not curbed their risk-taking when using corporate systems and mobile gadgets. Across 11 countries, business employees admitted to accessing adult websites at work — a veritable breeding ground of malware and malicious content. A new report from Juniper Networks suggests that data breaches will cost the global economy up to $2 TRILLION by 2019, with the US the most heavy-hit.

Company News:

PayPal ordered to pay $25 million over deceptive practices – PayPal, used by online merchants and shoppers to send and process payments, has just settled a federal lawsuit from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over alleged deceptive practices in its “Bill Me Later” program which is now known as PayPal Credit. PayPal will be returning $15 million to customers who lost money due to PayPal’s practices, and a $10 million fine has been levied against PayPal, going towards the CFPB. After the settlement, PayPal will be required to correct its consumer disclosure policies, making them “clearly and prominently” displayed to consumers.

Google reprimanded for YouTube Kids app showing inappropriate content – Google’s recent mobile app, YouTube Kids, a version of the popular video service that curates safe content for young children, has come under fire from two child and consumer advocacy groups claiming that the app is deceiving. The Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a complaint with the FTC, stating that “the app is rife with videos that would not meet anyone’s definition of ‘family friendly.'” The complaint included evidence of video clips that had been found on YouTube Kids that were described as disturbing and/or harmful to young children.

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Pandora buys music data cruncher Next Big Sound – By taking over a company that figures out the best tactics for music online, the biggest Internet radio service hopes to convince more labels and artists — oh, and advertisers — to join up.

Uber tests taking 30% commission from new drivers – The ride-hailing service is testing a new, tiered fee structure that could cut into part-time drivers’ pay but reward full-time drivers.

Uber threatens legal action against Australian tax office – After last month calling for regulation in Australia to allow it to operate legally, Uber is now considering using legal means to challenge a tax office ruling that requires its drivers to pay GST in line with taxi operators. Earlier today, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) classified Uber as a taxi service, and consequently its 9000 Australian drivers have until August 1 to get an Australian Business Number and register for GST. Uber disagreed with the decision and said its drivers, who typically earn $30,000 a year, should not pay tax on their first dollar earned as it hit out at the ATO.

Games and Entertainment:

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC) review impressions: Smoothly slaying monsters – After months of excitement about The Witcher 3, it seemed like it was falling apart in the run-up to launch. All of the reviews that went up last week were conducted on debug PS4 consoles. PC codes, meanwhile, were pushed back time and time again until finally I was told we’d receive code on launch day, probably. And all this from a PC-friendly developer like CD Projekt. When a game’s coming in that hot on PC, we’re right to be worried. Mortal Kombat X, Assassin’s Creed Unity—these are just two recent examples where the PC version came at the last minute and featured huge problems not caught on consoles. So yeah, I was worried about The Witcher 3. For no reason, it turns out.

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Facebook Messenger platform’s next target: games – We should have seen this coming a mile away. After all, it seems to be the trend with popular instant messengers these days anyway. Facebook is said to be now eying adding the power of games to its Messenger service, leveraging the nascent platform announced barely two months ago. But while the move may sound like a no-brainer in retrospect, Facebook’s motivations might be somewhat different, driven instead by reports that its Messenger Platform as a whole is starting to become a slow-moving flop.

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Against all odds, the new Wolfenstein games are fantastic – Wolfenstein: The New Order is as brutal and intense as any first-person shooter you’ll ever play, and it’s the most recent entry in a classic series whose stock has considerably fallen. But developer MachineGames used smart storytelling devices to build up a truly evil enemy that you feel no guilt at all in taking on — the game is set in an alternate history where the Nazis won — and the results are surprisingly congruous and emotional.

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Unreleased footage of cancelled Doom 4 shows why they restarted – By now you’ve probably heard all about that new Doom teaser that was released yesterday as a build-up to Bethesda’s full unveiling at E3 next month. But did you know that developers id Software completely restarted the project back in late 2011? Prior to that, they had gotten pretty far on what they were then calling Doom 4, but eventually realized it just didn’t have the “soul” of a Doom game, and needed to be scrapped. A brief, unreleased video of that old version has surfaced today, and it’s pretty clear they made the right call.

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Popcorn Time gains an in-browser viewing option – Popcorn Time, the so-called “Netflix of piracy”, went from a computer application to a mobile app, and now a new website is offering it as an in-browser option — meaning users are now able to watch pirated movies inside their web browser, perhaps proving the most simple version of the app to become available. The upside to this (for the pirates out there, at least) is that there’s no actual download or installation needed — one just browses, clicks a title, and it starts playing. The movie industry shudders.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Virtual reality could be the most important gimmick ever based on a brain flaw – Researchers working on ways to design computers that operate more like the human brain than like a really, really, really smart drugstore calculator might want to think twice considering some of the things virtual reality is revealing about how human brains actually work – and how they don’t.

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Appeals court says anti-Muslim YouTube video doesn’t have to come down – A Los Angeles actress had demanded the video’s removal after claiming she was fired from her job and received death threats over her brief stint in the video. Cindy Garcia said she thought she would be in an adventure show but was tricked into performing in a “hateful anti-Islamic production” that sparked worldwide protests. A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the woman last year in a 2-1 vote and ordered Google to remove the video. The court ruled that she controlled the copyright of her five-second stint, in which her dubbed voice asks: “Is your Muhammad a child molester?” Google, the media, and digital rights groups asked the court to rehear the case en banc with 11 judges. The media argued that the original decision “expands the concept of copyright ownership.” The larger panel of the San Francisco-based appeals court agreed Monday in a 10-1 ruling.

LG creates stick-on OLED TV screen less than 1mm thick – LG Display just unveiled a new, ultra-thin television screen that is less than one millimeter thick, at an industry event in its home country, Korea. LG’s current thinnest TV screen is a 55-inch OLED panel that is 4.3 mm thick. So, four of these new screens stacked together are still thinner than LG’s thinnest screen on the market. This new display won’t be available in stores anytime soon. The design revealed in Seoul is a proof-of-concept showing that the technology is possible even though production costs may not be low enough to be practical, yet.

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FTC sues four cancer charities over $187 million scam – The Federal Trade Commission has accused four cancer charities of defrauding well-meaning donors for over $187 million. Today, the FTC and law enforcement groups from all 50 states have filed a complaint against the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society. The complaint alleges that these four “sham charities” solicited millions in donations by promising to help pay for hospice care, chemotherapy, and other services for cancer patients. But only a fraction of that money actually went to patients. The rest went to company cars, high salaries, and even a Caribbean cruise.

It’s raining spiders in Australia again – Australia’s Southern Tablelands are experiencing an Angel Hair event – a spider migration which covers entire towns in spiderwebs. Thousands of flying spiders falling from the sky, creating an ethereal, other-worldly event the likes of which you’ve only likely ever seen in a dream. Or a nightmare – depending on your preferences. “When I looked up at the sun it was like this tunnel of webs going up for a couple of hundred meters into the sky,” said Goulburn resident Ian Watson. “It was beautiful.”

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KFC had a food tray that was also a Bluetooth keyboard – Whoever said that fast food does nothing good for you should get ready to eat their words. And some KFC too. The German division of the food chain has unveiling a solution to the problem of typing on your smartphone or tablet with greasy fingers: a thin, flexible Bluetooth keyboard that comes on the tray under your food order. It’s called the KFC Tray Typer, and before you rush out to your nearest fried chicken fast food outlet, know that this has only been shown in Germany, and you can’t really get your hands — greasy or not — on one. Read on for the explanation.

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9 programming languages and the women who created them – From the dawn of mainframes through today, women have designed and developed programming languages that have had significant, lasting impact on software development.

Something to think about:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

–      Margaret Atwood

Today’s Free Downloads:

Process Hacker Portable – Process Hacker is a feature-packed tool for manipulating processes and services on your computer.

Process Hacker is an application which helps users to view and manage the processes and their threads, modules and memory from their computers.

Installer version available.

Features:

A simple, customizable tree view with highlighting showing you the processes running on your computer.

Detailed performance graphs.

A complete list of services and full control over them (start, stop, pause, resume and delete).

A list of network connections.

Comprehensive information for all processes: full process performance history, thread listing and stacks with dbghelp symbols, token information, module and mapped file information, virtual memory map, environment variables, handles, …

Full control over all processes1, even processes protected by rootkits or security software. Its kernel-mode driver has unique abilities which allows it to terminate, suspend and resume all processes and threads, including software like IceSword, avast! anti-virus, AVG Antivirus, COMODO Internet Security, etc. (just to name a few).

Find hidden processes and terminate them. Process Hacker detects processes hidden by simple rootkits such as Hacker Defender and FU.

Easy DLL injection and unloading2 – simply right-click a process and select “Inject DLL” to inject and right-click a module and select “Unload” to unload!

Many more features…

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Secret Disk – Secret Disk can create additional disk on your PC, which can be invisible and locked with a password within one second. You can make your private files and folders invisible and protected.

You don’t need to format your hard disk or make any changes to boot sector. Our program will create new disk automatically very quickly. You can make this disk invisible, including all contents, and protect it with a password. You can store any files and folders on the disk. Secret disk works as usual hard disk and compatible with any other programs which you have installed. You can have more than one secret disk and you can also choose disk letter.

In case of power outage or fatal error of OS Windows your secret disk will be locked and become invisible automatically. It happens automatically because information are stored in the virtual memory. Secret Disk does not encrypt any files, it just limits access to your files (you can use password). Software ties virtual disk to your files. This will provide you enough security to hide your files from any person.

Limitations: Free version limited to a single 5 GB database, no tech support and displays Pro upgrade nag screens.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Majority of Americans “concerned” about NSA domestic surveillance – A new survey shows there is wide support across the political spectrum for ending the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs.

The poll (PDF), commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), showed 84 percent of respondents believed the FBI and other law enforcement agencies should require a warrant to access phone and email records.

Parts of the Patriot Act will sunset this June. But the more egregious spying programs are under a different authority. Lawmakers say they only know a fraction of what they should.

Also, two-thirds of respondents believe the Patriot Act, which the NSA used to authorize the mass bulk collection of Americans’ phone records (which was later struck down by a court), should not be reauthorized in its current form.

Fewer than one-in-five respondents were “not concerned” that the US government was collecting and storing phone records, emails, bank statements, and other communications on them.

The poll is the latest to gather the opinions on Americans’ view of domestic surveillance. Since the Edward Snowden revelations landed almost two years ago, there has been an intense debate across the US about the role and scope of the US law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which have shown to have stored and accessed millions of Americans’ personal records and data.

Watch the ACLU and Tea Party’s New Anti-Patriot Act Ad – Just how bad is the Patriot Act? If you guessed “bad enough that the ACLU and Tea Party would join forces to make an ads about how bad it is bad,” then you’d be correct.

Below is “Collect Call,” a new TV spot from the ACLU and the Tea Party Patriots, reminding citizens that because of the Patriot Act, the government can watch you Skype with your favorite soldier, and also listen to your doctor tell you about the results of your latest medical test.

The Patriot Act expires on June 1, and if it dies, so will the NSA’s ability to spy on Americans. This is obviously the desired outcome for both the ACLU, which wants to preserve the civil rights of citizens, as well as the Tea Party apparently, who just generally don’t like the government meddling in their business. Which is why the two groups are airing the ad in Washington, DC, as well as in New Hampshire and Iowa.

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Tech sector tells Obama encryption backdoors “undermine human rights” – Technology giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft urged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to refrain from supporting any US policy that would require the tech sector to install backdoors into their products so the authorities can access encrypted data.

In a letter (PDF) to Obama, dozens of tech companies, cryptologists, and rights groups said mandatory backdoors—which many authorities in the US government and abroad have been calling for—would weaken cybersecurity as well as “undermine human rights.”

More than undermining every American’s cybersecurity and the nation’s economic security, introducing new vulnerabilities to weaken encrypted products in the US would also undermine human rights and information security around the globe. If American companies maintain the ability to unlock their customers’ data and devices on request, governments other than the United States will demand the same access, and will also be emboldened to demand the same capability from their native companies. The US government, having made the same demands, will have little room to object. The result will be an information environment riddled with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by even the most repressive or dangerous regimes. That’s not a future that the American people or the people of the world deserve.

Tuesday’s letter comes as the White House is in the process of coming up with a position on the issue and in response to a chorus of government officials at home and abroad—including British Prime Minister David Cameron, FBI Director James Comey, and former Attorney General Eric Holder—all calling for backdoors.

Pre-thoughtcrime: Russian think tank app catches protestors before they protest – Issac Asimov’s Harry Seldon used “psycho-history” to predict the future. Tom Cruise used “precogs” in Minority Report. And now a pro-Putin think tank is trying to divine dissident activity by mining social media.

The Center for Research in Legitimacy and Political Protest claims to have developed software that will search Russian social media posts for signs of plans by political opposition to the government to stage unapproved protests or meetings. Described by an Izvestia report as “a system to prevent mass disorder,” the software searches through social media posts once every five minutes to catch hints of “unauthorized actions” and potentially alert law enforcement to prevent them.

Public protests, rallies, marches, and meetings staged without government approval are outlawed in Russia—individuals can be fined up to about $600 (30,000 rubles) for participating in such events or sentenced to 50 hours of community service.

South Korea mandates spyware installation on teenagers’ smartphones – A law requiring the mass installation of spyware on teenagers’ smartphones suggests that the frightening level of population control exercised by its neighbours in “Best Korea” has rubbed off on the Republic’s administrators in Seoul.

The Republic of South Korea’s Communications Commission, a media regulator modeled after the United States’ FCC, now requires telecom companies and parents to ensure a monitoring app is installed whenever anyone under the age of 19 receives a new smartphone.

The measure will only slowly come into force over the next few years as it doesn’t require old smartphones be updated, although AP reports that most schools in South Korea sent out letters to parents encouraging them to install the software anyway.

“It is the same as installing a surveillance camera in teenagers’ smartphones,” Kim Kha Yeun told AP. Kim is a general counsel at Open Net Korea, a non-profit organization that is challenging the regulator’s ordinance to South Korea’s Constitutional Court.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – May 18, 2015

The simple Smart Home: Where to start;  Don’t panic! How to fix 5 common PC emergencies;  6 Apps for People Who Hate Apps;  Tails 1.4 polishes up the privacy-obsessed Linux OS;  3 simple tips to get the most out of your webcam;  7 Android apps that track your expenses;  Plane hacker admitted in-flight engine takeover says FBI;  Make the Chrome New Tab page more useful, beautiful;  No free Windows 10 lunch for PC pirates;  10 utterly wonderful technologies you shouldn’t buy yet;  RAM for the rich: 128GB DDR4 memory kits;  These clothes manager apps help you dress better;  The 50 Geekiest Movies Streaming on Netflix;  The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is like an open-world, playable Game of Thrones;  The Internet Backbone is reaching its physical limits;  Microsoft Punishes Gears of War Leakers;  SlimCleaner (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The simple Smart Home: Where to start – Controlling lights, appliances, and keeping an eye on home security has never been easier, but as smart home technology proliferates, picking the best place to start can be tough.  I’m going to focus on products that require the minimum of installation effort. I’m a big fan of non-permanent options: it makes a lot of sense if you’re renting, but it also gives you flexibility to change things up as you get used to your newly-smart home. I’ve also made sure that my suggestions will all carry forward and work with many of the more capable home automation systems, in case you later decide on a more complex setup.

6 Apps for People Who Hate Apps – While smartphone apps are certainly as popular as ever, there’s also a revolt brewing against these attention-grabbing, notification-slinging programs. People are tired of being tied to their handsets and falling down the rabbit hole of their touchscreen every time an alert dings. These six apps will help you cut back on your screen time, while making you more productive than ever.

Flickr, Google Photos, Photobucket and more: Which photo storage service is right for you? – Find out which photo-sharing and storage site best suits your needs with this deep dive into the top online photo services.

10 utterly wonderful technologies you shouldn’t buy yet – Yes, there’s amazing gear out there that will blow your mind if money is no object. But the cutting edge requires compromise, be it in the form of high sticker prices, bugs galore, or other issues. With that in mind, here’s a list of technology that absolutely rocks—but you probably shouldn’t buy.

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

Make the Chrome New Tab page more useful, beautiful – Right now, your New Tab page in Chrome is probably a Google Search box, eight quick links to frequently visited sites, and a few extra Google links nestled in the top right-hand corner. It gets the job done, but it’s not much to look at. If you want to add a bit more functionality to your New Tab page, then check out Leoh for Chrome. This extension will let you add a to-do list, custom backgrounds, take notes and much more.

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7 Android apps that track your expenses – The following seven Android apps have been created to help users track and report on their expenses. Some are strictly for business purposes; others can be used for both personal and work finance tracking. All of these have been updated within the last six months and have earned a rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars on Google Play by at least 100 users.

RAM for the rich and nerdy: 128GB DDR4 memory kits become reality – Sure, you’ll have to sell both your kidneys to buy it, but at least now you can finally have 128GB of cutting-edge RAM in your PC. Corsair’s two kits fall into its premiere Dominator line up. The “cheaper” of the two uses eight 16GB DIMMs running at DDR4/2400 speeds for just $1,980. Corsair also offers a kit running at DDR4/2400 speeds for $2,120. Sign me up for two! Not to be outdone, Kingston this week also announced its own 128GB DDR4 kit, coming at even higher speeds. The company said its eight 16GB DIMMs are rated to hit DDR4/3000 speeds. Kingston did the deed not with the pricey Core i7-5960X Haswell-E processor, but the cheapie Core i7-5820K CPU.

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No free Windows 10 lunch for PC pirates – Microsoft’s appetite to get Windows 10 on as many PCs as possible may have seen it extend an olive branch to those running stolen software, but it won’t be a free lunch. The software giant surprised many earlier this year with its promise of a complimentary update in the first year; now, tackling the thorny issue of whether those running “non-genuine” prior versions of Windows will also get the free 10 upgrade, Microsoft’s Terry Myerson has confirmed that it won’t be so simple.

6 awesome new Android apps you should check out – The selection of apps and games in the Play Store is getting huge, but that’s not always a good thing. You could wander through the listings every day and still never spot the best stuff behind all the mediocre free-to-play games and keyboard skins. Luckily, we’re here to find the coolest apps and games so you’ll know what’s worth your time and money. So here are the best new apps and games on Android right now. Make sure to hit the gallery above for images of each pick.

Panasonic’s Firefox TVs are now on sale – The first TVs running Firefox OS are now on sale. Mozilla announced this morning that six models of Panasonic TVs running its new OS are starting to ship in Europe, with global availability arriving in “the coming months.” It’s hard to actually find the TVs online, but the two models that did turn up — the 50-inch CX700 and the 40-inch CX680 — were selling for £999 (around US $1,570) and £791 (around US $1,240).

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3 simple tips to get the most out of your webcam – The webcam is such a ubiquitous part of PCs we just don’t give them much thought anymore. They’re just one component among many on the latest desktops, laptops, and Ultrabooks sitting on store shelves.  People just aren’t giving the webcam the respect it deserves. Well, I say enough. Here are three tips to make the most of your webcam—including one tip that has nothing to do with video chat.

What to wear: These clothes manager apps help you dress better for work or play – Your phone can already handle a lot: Email, text messages, web-browsing, music-playing, picture-taking, and more. But did you know it can also serve as your personal stylist, helping you organize your wardrobe and dress appropriately for a wide variety of situations? Here are three apps that can help you look your best, whether you’re meeting with the CEO or taking clients out for a night on the town.

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Microsoft says it’s taking over updates for Windows 10 Mobile devices – It’s not exactly Android-style fragmentation, but Windows Phone users are perennially frustrated at carriers dragging their feet on operating system updates. That’s all changing with Windows 10 Mobile, the company says. And this time they mean it.

Security:

Tails 1.4 polishes up the privacy-obsessed Linux OS trusted by Edward Snowden – Tails, a privacy and anonymity-focused Linux distribution most famously used by Edward Snowden, just released version 1.4. This Debian-based system is designed to preserve your privacy and anonymity online, providing better protection than just using the Tor browser alone on a typical operating system. How effective is this concealment-centric operating system’s tools? Well, in 2012, vulnerabilities for Tails topped the NSA’s most-wanted list alongside Tor and TrueCrypt. Let’s dig into Tails’ basic capabilities, as well as the new changes.

Use privacy software if you want to be safe from Facebook, warns watchdog – A Belgian watchdog has urged all Internet users to download privacy software specifically to shield themselves from Facebook’s grasp. The social network has been under fire for the ways in which it tracks user and non-user behaviour online, without consent, most recently becoming the target of a Europe-wide lawsuit headed up by activist Max Schrems.

Plane hacker admitted in-flight engine takeover says FBI – While we were all busy arguing whether our cellphones could affect planes, one security researcher was busily hacking into aircraft and potentially gaining access to engine control. An ill-advised tweet got infosec specialist Chris Roberts barred from a United flight last month, after he joked about tinkering with aircraft systems like passenger emergency oxygen control. Turns out, so documentation submitted by the FBI reveals, Roberts’ abilities were even greater, to the point of momentarily controlling engine thrust.

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United launches bug bounty, but in-flight systems off limits – United Airlines is offering rewards to researchers for finding flaws in its websites but the company is excluding bugs related to in-flight systems, which the U.S. government says may be increasingly targeted by hackers. The bug bounty program rewards people with miles that can be used for the company’s Mileage Plus loyalty program as opposed to cash, which web giants such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo pay.

Penn State says it was hit with pair of “sophisticated” cyber attacks – Penn State has revealed that it was hit with two major cyber attacks, one of which it determined originated from China. The announcement was made today, with the university saying that it first became aware of the threats on November 21, 2014 after being alerted by the FBI. According to the statement, the FBI alerted the university of a cyber attack taking place on its College of Engineering network. The university is saying that “advanced persistent threat actors” conducted the two cyber attacks, with “at least” one being based in China. The oldest discovered date of intrusion was September of 2012.

Some perspective on Flash Player bugs – Last month, Adobe fixed 22 bugs in the Flash Player, in March, they fixed 11, in February, 15. January was a busy month, Adobe updated the software three different times to fix a total of 12 bugs. That’s 78 bugs fixed this year, after only 132 days. It averages out to a patch every 1.7 days. Or, 3 bug fixes every 5 days. What a disgrace, especially when you consider that Flash is a mature product. The software has been around since 1996. I started tracking it on my FlashTester.org site back in 2003. Putting it another way, after 18 years of work, Adobe produced such poor software that in its 19th year it needed 143 bug fixes.

FireEye, Microsoft wipe TechNet clean of malware hidden by hackers – According to a new report released by cybersecurity firm FireEye, in late 2014, FireEye Threat Intelligence and the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center discovered a command-and-control (C&C) obfuscation code hidden within Microsoft’s TechNet web portal. A Chinese group dubbed APT17 — also known as Deputy Dog — used the TechNet forum in order to hide the C&C code, making it more difficult for security professionals to locate the true source of the attack infrastructure.

Company News:

Google tipped to show “Buy” buttons in mobile search results – This latest insider info will surely ruffle Amazon’s and eBay’s furthers. Sources familiar with the matter claim that Google will be slowly rolling out a new feature on its mobile search results that will show a “Shop on Google” for sponsored search results, which will take users to a new page to make tweak the order and make a purchase. This dangerously encroaches on the territory of the two largest e-tailers but it could also sour Google’s relationships with other retailers already paying Google for some prime spots on its search results.

Amazon Might Let Merchants Ship Amazon Prime Goods Directly – Amazon is allegedly considering allowing some merchants to ship items directly to Amazon Prime shoppers instead of forcing them to store Amazon Prime items in Amazon’s warehouses.

AdBlock Plus team rumored to launch their own Android browser next week – If a report is to be believed, AdBlock Plus is going all out with its own web browser on Android for release on Wednesday May 20th, and as with most custom web browsers today, the browser is expected to use the chromium rendering engine. Other details about the browser are sparse but we will be keeping a very close eye on this one and will report any details and features this new browser may have.

Alibaba faces lawsuit from luxury brands over counterfeits – Alibaba Group has been hit with a lawsuit from luxury brands that alleges that the Chinese e-commerce giant has been deliberately promoting the sale of counterfeit products. The lawsuit, filed in a New York federal, comes from Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands owned by Kering. The brands claim that Alibaba has knowingly helped an “army of counterfeiters” to sell their products over its e-commerce sites.

Apple quietly acquires Coherent Navigation for precision GPS mapping – Apple could be looking to bolster its mapping services; which have a bit of a spotted history, polarizing iPhone users. Apple just purchased the company Coherent Navigation which specializes in High Integrity GPS. This specialized GPS system differences from consumer-end GPS systems in that it uses data from multiple Iridium satellite networks to give incredibly precise locations–accurate within centimeters. Apple is keeping mum on the deal, confirming the deal with a standard, boilerplate response, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft Punishes Gears of War Leakers – Did you know that the original Gears of War is coming to the Xbox One? Well it turns out Microsoft wasn’t ready to let the secret out. After footage of the upcoming remake was leaked onto the Web, Microsoft retaliated by remotely disabling the consoles of the leakers responsible. That wasn’t all, though. According to VMC, Microsoft also rendered the Xboxs of the accused totally unusable. Microsoft later released a statement saying they only revoked online access on the consoles in question, but even that still leaves countless games on the platform essentially unplayable. Apparently the punishment is only temporary. Microsoft will turn the consoles back on once it feels justice has been adequately served. And the company definitely has the right to go after people who break contracts.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is like an open-world, playable Game of Thrones – The latest entry in the Polish role playing series is essentially what would happen if you mashed up Game of Thrones and Grand Theft Auto. It takes place in a gritty fantasy realm beleaguered by horrific happenings. Not unlike Westeros, here is a place where magic and monsters exist alongside people. Characters die in brutal ways, and seemingly every story has a tragic element. The Witcher 3 is also an open-world game, a huge virtual playground where you can go practically anywhere and tackle things however you like. If the main story doesn’t interest you, simply wander off and hunt some monsters in the woods or investigate murders in a bustling medieval town. But no matter what you choose, you’re going to have some fun.

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Nvidia releases first WHQL driver for Windows 10 – Nvidia has beaten AMD to the punch with a full WHQL certified Windows 10 GPU driver, version 352.84, supporting their last three generations of desktop and four generations of mobile GPUs. This is a fairly major milestone for previewing Windows 10 on modern desktops, as solid video driver support is key to a good experience, and video driver issues have been known to plague Windows Insiders before. The full list of GPUs supported is as follows

The 50 Geekiest Movies Streaming on Netflix – It wasn’t hard to find 50 truly worthwhile movies to watch that hit all the right dork buttons. I limited the choices to science fiction and fantasy tales, with some horror thrown in if it had a super-natural element. Now sit back and fire up your My List with some streaming greatness (and check out the best geeky TV shows at left, too.)

Here’s the high-end PC you’ll need to run the Oculus Rift – It was always clear that the Oculus Rift would require a high-end PC — Oculus product VP Nate Mitchell said as much last week. But today, Oculus has published the actual recommended specs for a Rift-compatible computer. Here’s what you’ll need: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater; Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater; 8GB+ RAM; Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output; 2x USB 3.0 ports; Windows 7 SP1 or newer.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google readies self-driving cars for public roads – As part of its self-driving car project, Google has announced plans to move prototype autonomous vehicles from its test center to city streets. Google’s self-driving cars have been in development for several years. The new prototypes are based on Google’s original fleet of self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs, which have logged nearly a million miles during testing and have recently begun driving themselves for roughly 10,000 miles each week.

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Researchers: The Internet Backbone is reaching its physical limits – According to New Scientist, the fiber optic cables that make up the Internet’s Backbone have a maximum data capacity of about 100 terabits per second: René-Jean Essiambre of Alcatel-Lucent says that those cables could reach that full capacity within five years. It sounds a little scary, but we have some time to address this looming crisis. And researchers are working toward doing just that: A melding of minds took place last week at the Royal Society in London where Internet experts discussed ways to keep the Internet running smoothly. The group discussed several ideas, New Scientist says, ranging from methods to reduce signal interference to new kinds of fibers that “contain multiple cores for transmitting data.”

Starbucks app fail leads to manager’s epic YouTube meltdown – A New York customer says she was struggling with her mobile app. This seemed to lead to the Starbucks manager completely losing it. Of course it’s now on YouTube.

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Who really wins from Facebook’s ‘free internet’ plan for Africa? – In the world’s least-developed countries, isn’t free internet, or at least a bit of it, a good thing? As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s expanding ventures in Asia and Africa demonstrate, the issue is considerably more complex than it might initially appear. Facebook caused a storm of controversy in India when it launched its Internet.org app, offering free access to a suite of websites including Facebook’s own pared-down ‘zero rated’ service. Net neutrality advocates have been up in arms, and their arguments have gained enough traction to cause a number of Indian content providers, including the Times Group and NDTV, to step away from the initiative.

Woody Allen: I don’t own a computer – Technically Incorrect: The famed director reportedly says he’s sad that people now watch movies on tiny screens and regrets signing a deal to make a TV series for Amazon.

Something to think about:

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

–     Mahatma Gandhi

Today’s Free Downloads:

SlimCleaner – SlimCleaner is the world’s first software that lets you clean and optimize Windows systems using a crowd-sourced approach.

Crowd-sourced and cloud-based, SlimCleaner combines a powerful PC cleaning engine with a community of tech-expert users who provide real-time feedback about the apps and items on a PC, to help others improve their own computer’s performance.

New Features:

New Interface: Gives users greater control and a faster experience, thanks to numerous refinements in SlimCleaner’s interface. Enhancements are based on extensive studies of how users interact with the software.

Intelligent Defrag: Allows users to run a personalized defrag based on their specific PC hardware. SlimCleaner will identify a PC’s hardware configuration and allow users to start a defrag based on settings intelligently determined by SlimCleaner based on that individual PC.

Software Updater: Lets users check for updates to the software on their PC and install those updates directly from SlimCleaner. SlimCleaner checks and installs updates for tens of thousands of commonly used software programs. Software updates are downloaded from SlimWare Utilities’ cloud, and all updates are scanned for viruses using CloudScan technology, SlimWare Utilities’ proprietary system of scanning files with multiple antivirus engines.

Solid-State Drive Optimization: Allows users to optimize the layout of files on their solid-state drives to speed-up loading programs and opening documents. The intelligent defrag system works with solid state drives by organizing files into logically sequential sectors while minimizing wear on the drive.

Duplicate Finder: Provides users with a quick, automated way to find and eliminate unnecessary duplicate files that can clutter and slow down a hard drive. The duplicate file finder wipes out extra or unneeded copies of files — including text files, videos, music files, etc. — that can take up space. The feature includes settings to allow for different levels of analysis.

The duplicate finder feature includes the company’s new “IntelliMatch Scan” engine, which uses SlimWare Utilities’ IntelliMatch technology to identify all duplicates. The engine works similar to a high-end anti-virus to read the various parameters of each file and accurately identify all duplicates across an unlimited amount of drives.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Critics blast NSA phone records bill as ‘fake reform’ – A lopsided vote in the U.S. House of Representatives this week to rein in the National Security Agency’s domestic telephone records dragnet won muted praise, with many supporters calling on Congress to take stronger action.

Critics, meanwhile, slammed the USA Freedom Act for extending the section of the antiterrorism Patriot Act that the NSA has used to collect the telephone records of nearly all U.S. residents. The bill, passed by a 338-88 vote late Wednesday, would end the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic telephone records, while allowing the agency to continue to collect phone and other business records in a more targeted manner.

The bill’s failure to kill the business and telephone records section of the Patriot Act, which would expire on June 1 without congressional action, is “fake reform,” according to digital rights groups Fight for the Future and Demand Progress and progressive carrier CREDO Mobile. The bill would expand NSA surveillance powers to VoIP and video chats and would take the “wind out of the sails of real reform by appearing to have addressed mass surveillance,” the groups said on a new website, USAFreedom.fail.

The USA Freedom Act is “the opposite of reform,” Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, said by email.

UK government quietly rewrites hacking laws to give GCHQ immunity – The UK government has quietly passed new legislation that exempts GCHQ, police, and other intelligence officers from prosecution for hacking into computers and mobile phones.

While major or controversial legislative changes usually go through normal parliamentary process (i.e. democratic debate) before being passed into law, in this case an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was snuck in under the radar as secondary legislation. According to Privacy International, “It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes… There was no public debate.”

Privacy International also suggests that the change to the law was in direct response to a complaint that it filed last year. In May 2014, Privacy International and seven communications providers filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), asserting that GCHQ’s hacking activities were unlawful under the Computer Misuse Act.

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