Tag Archives: App Store

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – September 21, 2015

AVG says it can sell your browsing data;  How to enable Windows 10’s ‘Hey Cortana’ voice commands;  5 reasons to buy Amazon’s $50 tablet — and one not to;  Apple posts fix for iOS 9 ‘Slide to Upgrade’ bug;  Nasty URL bug brings Google Chrome to a screeching halt;  Tech finds 1.5M US medical records exposed on AWS;  Developer Removes Top Ad-Blocker From App Store;  Transform your laptop into a gaming powerhouse with an external graphics card;  Installing Linux on a Chromebook: What you need to know;  Mandatory South Korean parental control app is a security nightmare;  Why Windows 10 is the most secure Windows ever;  The BBC to launch a streaming service in the U.S.; Microsoft sued over alleged gender discrimination;  Products with Microbeads: why you need to stop using them, now;  25 Habits That Will Make You Smarter;  A sport plane for the masses – if you have $189,000 to spare;  SpyShelter Free Anti-Keylogger.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

 AVG says it can sell your browsing data in updated privacy policy – AVG has updated its privacy policy’s language, and in the amended document, the security firm admits that it can “make money from [its] free offerings with non-personal data.” These “non-personal” info include your device’s brand, language and apps in use, among other things. The company is adamant that it doesn’t sell anything with identifying information, and the data that it does collect is anonymized and stored without anything that can link it back to you. According to the updated policy, AVG can collect data you yourself provide — plus, it can use cookies to track your searchers and your activities on websites, apps and other products. It can then use those details to “build anonymous data profiles” or create statistical information, which it can then sell.

5 reasons to buy Amazon’s $50 tablet — and one not to – Yesterday, Amazon took the wraps off a $50 tablet, the simply named Fire. As you might expect, I’m a little excited. Admittedly, I haven’t seen or handled the new Fire, so I can’t address the elephant in the room: the screen. (More on that below.) But here are five reasons I think this is something you’ll want, either for yourself or as a gift.

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Fifty bucks. Remember when all tablets were $500?

How to enable Windows 10’s ‘Hey Cortana’ voice commands – One of the best parts of Windows 10 is its deep integration with Cortana, Microsoft’s helpful digital assistant. To really make Cortana work for you, however, it helps to have the voice activation feature up and running. That way your next file search, weather check, or command to open an app is just a “Hey, Cortana” away.

Apple posts fix for iOS 9 ‘Slide to Upgrade’ bug – If you’ve upgraded your iPhone or iPad to iOS 9 and it is stuck on the ‘Slide to Upgrade’ screen, this is the fix you’re looking for.

How to delete large attachments to save storage space in Gmail – If you’re pushing the 15GB limit for Gmail and Google Drive, you can save space by using FindBigMail’s service, or by running some simple searches – though you still can’t delete attachments without deleting the emails as well.

Nasty URL bug brings Google Chrome to a screeching halt – Visiting—or merely mousing over a link that contains a specific string of characters—is enough to cause the current release of the Chrome browser to crash. According to VentureBeat, merely appending “%%30%30” to the end of a URL will cause Chrome to hang and crash. The cruelest twist? You don’t even have to open a malformed URL to cause the crash–merely mousing over the link is enough to bring down Chrome. (In other words, don’t add the above string to URLs unless you like cussing at your computer. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

Five to Try: Android Pay starts rolling out, and Spotify amps up your runs – We usually try to throw the spotlight on brand new apps with our weekly Five to Try column, but sometimes massive updates steal the show. It’s actually a little of both with Android Pay: the app itself is a totally new experience, although it’s being released as a rebranded update to the old Google Wallet. In any case, if you’re eager to tap and pay with your phone, it’s the app to get this week.

How to transform your laptop into a gaming powerhouse with an external graphics card – With a little bit of research and elbow grease, an external graphics setup can transform your laptop into a gaming powerhouse for a fraction of the price of a whole new gaming PC.

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Installing Linux on a Chromebook: What you need to know – Chromebooks are more powerful than you realize already, but zooming around the web in Google’s browser is just the beginning of what Chromebooks are capable of. Chrome OS is built on top of the Linux kernel, and you can install a full Linux environment alongside Chrome OS on your Chromebook. This gives you access to Steam and over a thousand PC games, Minecraft, Skype, and everything else that runs on desktop Linux.

Microsoft’s Edge browser will soon support Skype calls without a plugin – Skype is a natural fit for ORTC, and sure enough, the Skype team announced Friday that it is working on new versions of Skype for Web and Skype for Outlook.com that take advantage of this new technology. According to the Skype blog, “Skype users will be able to make voice and video calls without needing to install a plug-in on Microsoft Edge” starting sometime later this year. The Skype team says it’s also working on a plugin-free version of Skype for Business for Edge users, though it didn’t say when it expects to have that ready to rock.

Microsoft delivers Windows 10 test Build 10547 to Fast Ring Insiders – Microsoft has rolled out a new Windows 10 test build for PCs, 10547, as well as updates to a number of the built-in Windows 10 apps, for those on the Fast RIng.

Developer Removes Top Ad-Blocker From App Store: It ‘Just Doesn’t Feel Good’ – App developer Marco Arment just pulled his wildly popular ad-blocker, Peace, from the market. Arment said he didn’t feel good about the app, and has pulled it from the Apple’s App Store, announcing the move in a blog post Friday. “I’ve pulled Peace from the App Store. I’m sorry to all of my fans and customers who bought this on my name, expecting it to be supported for longer than two days. It’ll keep working for a long time if you already have it, but with no updates,” he wrote. He’s offering consumers a refund, as well as linking to instructions on how to get one.

Security:

Mandatory South Korean parental control app is a security nightmare – Back in April, South Korea required that wireless carriers install parental control apps on kids’ phones to prevent young ones from seeing naughty content. It sounded wise to officials at the time, but it now looks like that cure is worse than the disease. Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab have discovered 26 security holes in Smart Sheriff, the most popular of these mandatory parental apps. The software has weak authentication, sends a lot of data without encryption and relies on servers using outdated, vulnerable code. It wouldn’t be hard for an intruder to hijack the parent’s account, intercept communications or even scoop up the kids’ personal details. The worst part? Some of these vulnerabilities apply on a large scale, so a particularly sinister attacker could compromise hundreds of thousands of phones at once.

Apple’s Chinese App Store Has Come Under a Malware Attack – According to the Wall Street Journal, hackers planted an outwardly normal version of an Apple software called Xcode, used to develop iOS applications, on a Chinese cloud service called Baidu Pan. Developers began using it because it was faster to download than the Xcode software from Apple’s U.S. servers, the CBC reports, citing Palo Alto Networks director of threat intelligence Ryan Olson. However, the Chinese version was fraudulent and “Trojanized.” Olson told CBC that the breach was “a pretty big deal” as it showed that the App Store could be compromised.

VisitorTracker Malware Affects Thousands of WordPress Sites – Bad news for those using WordPress for their corporate or personal websites. According to security firm Sucuri, a not-so-insignificant number of WordPress installations have been compromised by a new “visitorTracker_isMob” piece of malware over the past two weeks. Visitors who attempt to go to these sites are redirected to a new page that probes their system for all kinds of weaknesses. If one is found, said system is compromised, and it only gets worse from there.

Tech finds 1.5M US medical records exposed on AWS – The private health records and private contact information of as many as 1.5 million Americans have been posted to Amazon’s cloud services. Names, addresses, and phone numbers along with biological health information including existing illnesses and current medications were posted in the clear to Amazon servers by insurers using Systema Software. It is unknown how the information was posted while the number of affected patients remains unconfirmed. Kansas’ State Self Insurance Fund, CSAC Excess Insurance Authority, and the Salt Lake County Database are known to be affected. Texan tech Chris Vickery spotted the files on Amazon servers and reported the breach to Systema Software. The company has since warned its affected customers and has kicked off an investigation.

South Korea hit with over 114,000 cyberattacks in 5 years – South Korea may have the fastest Internet speed in the world, but it looks like the country needs to ramp up its security. On Friday it was revealed that South Korea’s government has been hit by more than 110,000 cyberattacks in the past five years.

Why Windows 10 is the most secure Windows ever – So far the buzz has mainly been about Windows Hello, which supports face and fingerprint recognition. But Device Guard and Credential Guard are the two standout security features of Windows 10—they protect the core kernel from malware and prevent attackers from remotely taking control of the machine. Device Guard and Credential Guard are intended for business systems and are available only in Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education.

Company News:

Microsoft sued over alleged gender discrimination – The lawsuit comes from former worker Katie Moussouris, who served in Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group in Redmond for more than half a decade. According to the lawsuit, Microsoft’s female technology professionals are paid less than their male counterparts, among other issues. Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that sexual harassment took place against female workers via the man who was directing the Trustworthy Computing Group in 2008. Allegedly when a company investigation found this to be true, Microsoft allowed this individual to retain his “title and influence,” and simply reassigned him to a different part of the group.

T-Mobile Simple Global expands to all Europe, South America – Unsatisfied with trying to conquer the US, T-Mobile wants to spread its Un-carrier words beyond the country’ borders. Today it announces that its Simple Global scheme, which tries to make the world a smaller place through your smartphone, is expanding to 20 more countries, including all of Europe and all of South America. This means that in 145 countries, eligible subscribers can browse the Web or send SMS at no extra cost than what they would pay while at home, while calls do get charged $0.20 per minute.

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AT&T says rogue employees secretly unlocked hundreds of thousands of phones – AT&T said three of its employees secretly installed software on its network so a cellphone unlocking service could surreptitiously funnel hundreds of thousands of requests to its servers to remove software locks on phones. AT&T’s allegations are made in a filing with U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in which it accuses two companies, four people and an unknown software developer or developers, of participating in the audacious scheme. AT&T filed its lawsuit on Sept. 11 but it was first reported by Geekwire on Friday.

Comcast strikes settlement with California over privacy issue – The settlement was announced on Thursday, and is related to claims that Comcast published personal customer data online, including phone numbers, names, and addresses. This is said to have affected “tens of thousands” of Comcast subscribers who had shelled out for an unlisted VOIP service. The settlement amounts to $33 million, with $25 million of that going toward paying legal fees related to the investigation and penalties. The other $8 million will be going to customers who were affected as restitution. All 75,000 or so affected subscribers will get refunds for the payments they made for unlisted service.

Games and Entertainment:

How to use Windows 10’s Game DVR to record videos of your PC gaming– With Windows 10’s Game DVR feature, you can easily record your gaming exploits and share with your Xbox-using friends—all without downloading and installing additional software like Nvidia’s ShadowPlay or OBS. Here’s how to get started.

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GameStop refuses to sell console bundles with digital games – These days, when you purchase a new video game console that comes with bundled with one or more games, what’s inside the box is actually a code for redeeming a downloadable digital copy of the game. As it turns out, GameStop, one of the largest video game retailers in the US, doesn’t like this due to the fact that the vast majority of their profits come from trading in and selling of used games. So, the company has recently announced that it will no longer carry bundles with digital games, and only sell those with a physical copy.

The BBC to launch a streaming service in the U.S. – The BBC will launch a paid, on-demand streaming service in the U.S. next year, its head honcho Tony Hall revealed Thursday. It’s a move designed to boost the corporation’s overseas income amid the prospect of a serious reduction in domestic funding. The UK’s public service broadcaster is by no means a newcomer to the streaming game. It has offered an online TV catch-up service called iPlayer in its homeland since late 2007, and until not that long ago, also operated a subscription-based streaming service in more than a dozen markets around the globe. This upcoming venture, however, will be its first foray into the rapidly expanding U.S. streaming-video market.

Off Topic (Sort of):

25 Habits That Will Make You Smarter – Want to expand your mind? A little bit of effort every day goes a long way. In the Quora thread, “What would you do to be a little smarter every single day?”, readers shared the habits they follow to fuel their brains. Here are some simple actions that could help you become a smarter person.

A sport plane for the masses? Fun, sure — if you have $189,000 to spare – Earlier this week, I had a chance to take a flight in a diminutive airplane called the ICON A5. For someone whose air travel has typically meant an economy-class seat on a commercial airliner, sitting in the pilot’s seat of the A5 stoked a mixture of reactions. It was exhilarating, crazy, a little scary and, above all, a lot of fun. At $189,000 for the plane, it would be an extremely expensive hobby.

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The ICON A5 sport plane can take off from land or water. Sarah Tew/CNET

Watch these drones build a rope bridge – One of the big selling points of drones is that they can get to areas that aren’t exactly safe or accessible by humans. That’s why watching quadrocopters assembling a rope bridge that’s sturdy enough for a person to walk across is so damned awesome — it immediately calls to mind a real-world use scenario that probably all of us can relate to. The video below was filmed at RTH Zurich Flying Machine Arena in Switzerland, and, according to the YouTube description, aside from the scaffolding on either side of the bridge, the structure is “entirely realized by flying machines.” Every knot and braid in the 7.4 meter (just over 24 feet) bridge was tied by the UAVs using Dyneema rope. As Robohub tells it, the material has a low weight-to-strength ratio that makes it pretty great for aerial construction uses.

Products with Microbeads: why you need to stop using them, now – The dangers of using health and beauty products with microbeads have been explored in a paper published this week in at the ACS. With the American Chemical Society, researchers have (once again) confirmed a number of reasons why microbead products contaminate our shared environment, suggesting then that the inclusion of microbeads in all products be banned immediately. While some bans have begun, much of the world continues to allow the manufacture and distribution of microbeads without regulation.

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Volkswagen to recall 500,000 US vehicles because it used software to cheat on emission testing – German automaker Volkswagen has run afoul of US environmental regulators, and it could cost the company big. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a notice to Volkswagen that it broke the law by using software to circumvent emissions testing. The result is a mandatory recall of 500,000 Volkswagen and Audi vehicles from model years 2009-2015. Volkswagen was caught building a so-called “defeat device” into its consumer diesel vehicles including the Jetta, Beetle, Passat, and Audi A3. This is essentially a special software mode that is only triggered when the car detects that it is undergoing official emissions testing. The engine will then be on its best behavior, so to speak.

Something to think about:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

–    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Downloads:

SpyShelter Free Anti-Keylogger – SpyShelter Free Anti-Keylogger offers complex system protection and anti-keylogging modules for free. It does not even require account registration!

Zero-day malware protection – SpyShelter does not rely on an antivirus signature database, because our software understands how malware works. SpyShelter protects you from both known and uknown threats, which were not discovered by antivirus labs yet.

Light, fast and efficient – Fast algorithm processing does not slow down your computer while scanning for dangerous elements. In fact, SpyShelter’s proactive defense is so light, that you will not experience any difference in your PC performance.

Real Time System Protection – SpyShelter guards your registry, physical memory (RAM) and other sensitive computer parts among with processes, so that malicious code cannot be injected to take control of your PC.

Anti key logger – SpyShelter Free Anti-Keylogger ensures that whatever you type into your computer, is protected against dangerous people who want to steal your data! With SpyShelter, your personal data will be safe.

Clipboard Protection – SpyShelter shields sensitive data that can be found in your Windows clipboard as a result of copying, cutting, and pasting. Spyshelter ensures that this information will not be maliciously monitored by other people.

64 bit support – SpyShelter Free Anti-Keylogger is fully compatible with both 32 and 64 bit editions of Windows XP(SP2 and SP3), Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

Keystroke Encryption – SpyShelter Free Anti-Keylogger has an integrated keystroke encryption driver which encrypts your keystrokes while you are browsing the web. This means that even if you allow any malicious application to run on your system, it will only retrieve meaningless random text.

Virus Total uploader – Afraid of viruses? SpyShelter allows you to perform a quick online scan of any suspicious files using over 40 different antiviruses, with just one mouse click!

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

You can now find out if GCHQ spied on you – Anyone who has ever wondered how much information GCHQ knows about them can now ask the British intelligence agency directly. GCHQ has to reveal information illegally obtained and shared with the NSA before the end 2014 about citizens of any country. And after revealing what it collected, the information must be permanently deleted.

Privacy International’s “Did GCHQ spy on you?” tool attempts to make it easier for people to get in touch with the spy agency. It was originally launched in February but this earlier version of the tool saw Privacy International make requests on the public’s behalf. As GCHQ was not legally compelled to respond the tool was effectively useless.

“We think that millions of people’s fundamental rights have been violated and that they have a right to know that,” Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International tells WIRED.

The updated tool requires that people make their own request, with GCHQ required to reply to all properly filed requests. All requests will be handled by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, an independent body that deals with complaints made against the UK’s surveillance agencies.

Kim Dotcom finally faces extradition hearing – It’s been three-and-a-half tumultuous years since New Zealand Police raided Kim Dotcom’s mansion in Coatesville, Auckland.

Accused by the FBI of copyright violation, racketeering and money laundering, Dotcom fought a ferocious legal and extralegal campaign to avoid extradition to the United States.

Along the way, he embarrassed the Police, New Zealand spy agency the GCSB, the Prime Minister, disastrously entered the political fray via the Internet Party, released an album of music and appeared in TV ads.

Today, in an Auckland court, he finally faces the hearing he tried so hard to avoid.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 12, 2015

After 11 hours, the App Store and iTunes are back online;  10 things to consider before buying an LED bulb;  How to use your mobile device to control your home theater;  Twitter’s new policy: no to nonconsensual adult content;  How to unlock your Mac just by walking up to it;  10 LinkedIn Tips for Networking Success;  Hillary Clinton’s email system was insecure for two months;  Going on holiday? Mexico wants your personal data;  FTC charges DirecTV with fraud for misleading customers;  Facebook Is Facing a Massive Lawsuit Over Online Purchases Made by Kids;  Dropbox patches Android security flaw;  Play Cards Against Humanity On the Web, for Free;  Google Launches New Online Store To Showcase Hardware;  Why is killing such a central concept in video games?  Australians! Let us all rise up against data retention.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google’s smart-home plans include ‘neighborhood security networks’ and security ratings for homes – A patent application the search giant published Thursday points to a future in which smart homes have each other’s back, and where a smart home’s ‘security score’ determines the cost of security services and insurance.

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Panda antivirus labels itself as malware, then borks EVERYTHING – Panda users had a bad hair day on Wednesday, after the Spanish security software firm released an update that classified components of its own technology as malign. As a result, enterprise PCs running the antivirus software tied themselves in something of a knot, leaving some systems either unstable or unable to access the internet. A Panda spokesman confirmed the problem while advising that the issue was well in hand. An official advisory on the problem says that the issue was limited to Panda Cloud Office Protection, Retail 2015 products and Panda Free AV. Users are strongly advised not to restart their computer until a fix is available.

10 things to consider before buying an LED bulb – The LED Age is officially upon us, and light bulbs are as high-tech as they’ve ever been. That makes it a great time to upgrade, but you’ll want to be sure you understand some light bulb basics first. Here’s what you need to know.

How to use your mobile device to control your home theater – With the right selection of apps you can transform your iOS or Android phone or tablet into an elegant home entertainment command center.

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Evernote for Android gets sleek redesign – Evernote has pushed out a new design for its Android app, bringing it in line with Google’s design guidelines for Lollipop by largely refining what it already offered. Not much has changed over the last design update, though Evernote says there’s more to it than just the visual changes, and that “the thoughtful touches to these features” makes the overall Android note-taking experience better than before. Evernote went into details about the design change, talking about the motivation behind it and the best it has to offer users.

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Twitter’s new policy: no to nonconsensual adult content – Twitter is making it clear: there is no room for revenge porn or similar content on its network. While it might sound like a no-brainer, given that Twitter already disallows graphic content anyway, it sometimes pays to be perfectly explicit, especially when it comes down to legalities. So as not to give any smart crack room to wiggle, the social networking giant has updated its Twitter Rules to lay out in no ambiguous terms, but without mentioning specifics, that revealing photos or videos are not allowed, especially if the subject doesn’t consent to its distribution.

Facebook Removes ‘Feeling Fat’ Emoticon After Backlash – Facebook has removed a controversial “feeling fat” emoticon after thousands complained that it promoted body-shaming. The emoticon, which featured chubby cheeks and a double chin, was previously listed as an option for status updates. It came under fire recently thanks to a Change.org petition from Catherine Weingarten of Endangered Bodies, a group that aims to “challenge the current toxic culture that promotes negative body image.”

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Hey Barbie, Are You Invading My Privacy? – Big Sister is listening: A privacy group has issued a petition aimed at stopping Mattel’s “Hello Barbie” doll from hitting shelves this fall. The Wi-Fi-connected figurine can carry on a conversation, remember responses, store data in the cloud, and get to know a user over time (think Siri or Cortana). “Kids using ‘Hello Barbie’ won’t only be talking to a doll,” the privacy advocates said in a petition. “They’ll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial. It’s creepy—and creates a host of dangers for children and families.” In an effort to thwart the doll’s upcoming release, the CCFC penned a letter to Mattel CEO Christopher Sinclair, asking to stop Hello Barbie “immediately.”

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Apple services including App Store hit by major worldwide outage – Apple services are currently experiencing a major outage around the world, with widespread reports across social media of users from Australia to Vietnam unable to gain access. The issue is affecting key services, including both the iOS and Mac App Stores, which are spitting out error messages indiscriminately when users try to access content. Many app listings are completely inaccessible, while some music and video content can be seen, but not purchased. At time of publication, the issues had been affecting users for several hours. Predictably, and in unmistakably Apple fashion, the company has been ignoring media requests for information, and according to its status page, there are no problems with its services at all.

After 11 hours, the App Store and iTunes are back online – Apple’s App Store and iTunes have sprung back into life, after technical issues brought the download stores offline in the early hours of this morning. Downloads of apps, music, and video resumed at approximately 1:30pm Pactific today, after what Apple described as a DNS issue left users not only unable to get to the App Store and iTunes on their iPhones and iPads, but temporarily killed the Mac App Store and iBooks Store too. In total, the services were offline for more than ten hours.

Google enters watch face market with Street Art – The first Google-made downloadable set of Android Wear watch faces has been released this week. Aside from the faces that come with every Android Wear device, Google has been mum on creating their own watch faces for the Android Wear line thus far. This piece of software called “Street Art watch face” breaks that silence with a wide variety of super talented artists.

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Watch styles include Analog, Digital, and Minimal, and you’re able to flip off/on your display of date. This app is free from the Google Play app store and works with your Android Wear devices connected with your Android smartphone.

How to unlock your Mac just by walking up to it – This free app for your Mac or iOS device makes it too easy to unlock your Mac based simply on how close you are. Tether is a combination of a free OS X and iOS app that leverages Bluetooth 4.0 technology to monitor just how close you are, or should I say iOS device is, to your Mac. When your device is within range (about 30 feet by my count), the app unlocks your Mac. When you walk away, your Mac is locked back up barring any unauthorized access. Getting it all set up is simple; download the Mac app from Tether’s site. Followed by the iOS app from the App Store. Next, follow the instructions to connect your two devices.

10 LinkedIn Tips for Networking Success – Whether or not you’re looking for a job, you should be on LinkedIn to keep on top of what’s going on in your industry, chat with colleagues, promote your achievements, and network far beyond your geographic location. But with over 300 million LinkedIn members looking at 1.45 million jobs per day, the competition is tough. So how do you stand out from the pack? We’ve got a few tricks to help you find a new trade (or just a job within your current one).

Security:

Hillary Clinton’s email system was insecure for two months – The private email system used by Hillary Clinton when she was U.S. Secretary of State didn’t encrypt messages during the first two months of use, an Internet security company said Wednesday. That would have left emails sent and received by Clinton in early 2009 vulnerable to eavesdropping — just when British and American intelligence agencies were reportedly spying on world leaders. Around that time, British and American spy agencies were reportedly eavesdropping on world leaders. At the G20 summit in April 2009, they set up fake Internet cafes in the hope that government ministers and their staff would connect to Internet hotspots, allowing the agencies to tap unencrypted or poorly encrypted communications.

Going on holiday? Mexico wants your personal data – European airlines could soon be forced to break citizens’ right to privacy if they want to fly to Mexico. Mexican authorities have decided to implement a “passenger name record” (PNR) scheme from 1 April. PNR data encompasses all the information airlines hold on their passengers – from credit card details, phone numbers and emails to dietary requirements – and from April, Mexico wants all that handed over when someone flies into the country.

Pointing up   Vote with your wallet. Avoid Mexico and any other country which insists on knowing when you shower, shave, and …

Windows PCs remained vulnerable to Stuxnet-like attacks despite 2010 patch – If you patched your Windows computers in 2010 against the LNK exploit used by Stuxnet and thought you were safe, researchers from Hewlett-Packard have some bad news for you: Microsoft’s fix was flawed. This means that over the past four years attackers could have reverse-engineered Microsoft’s fix to create new LNK exploits that could infect Windows computers when USB storage devices got plugged into them. However, there’s no information yet to suggest this has happened.

Dropbox patches Android security flaw – Dropbox has patched a security flaw which allowed cyberattackers to steal new information uploaded to accounts through compromised third-party apps on Android devices. The company announced the fix through the Dropbox Developer Blog on Wednesday. Dropbox, a firm which caters for over 300 million users and offers cloud-based file storage, said a minor security vulnerability in Android Core and Sync/Datastore SDKs was patched a few months ago.

Ars tests ExoNet, the personal VPN that takes you home – Ars received a prototype of x.o.ware’s hardware and beta software to determine whether the technology at the heart of the product, which is expected to start shipping sometime this year, lived up to its promise. While the system is still in development, and there are still some fit and finish issues that need to be addressed before the products ship, I found that ExoNet and ExoKey were (in the most recent iteration of the early release software and firmware) fairly painless to set up and use. And they did a good job of protecting Web browsing sessions without the performance overhead of anonymizing networks. I did find some bugs along the way, which x.o.net is addressing, and should be resolved in the shipping product.

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First medical apps built with Apple’s ResearchKit won’t share data for commercial gain – As concern grows about data collection by mobile apps, Apple and companies involved with its new ResearchKit software development framework for medical studies say users of the first five apps have nothing to worry about. Access to health data collected by the apps will be restricted to approved medical researchers and barred from commercial use, and the apps won’t delve into the personal contents stored on a smartphone, according to the companies.

Company News:

Facebook Is Facing a Massive Lawsuit Over Online Purchases Made by Kids – Facebook was hit with a nationwide class-action lawsuit in the U.S. on Tuesday, over its refusal to provide refunds to parents whose children spent money on the website. A federal judge in San Jose, California ruled that hundreds of thousands of people across the country could now take legal action against the social network over its policy on online purchases by minors, Reuters reported.

Google Launches New Online Store To Showcase Hardware “Made With Google” – Google is launching a new online store today to showcase “all the latest products made with Google.” The new Google Store, instead of the Play Store, will now become the central spot for buying Google-centric hardware like Google’s own Nexus phones, Android Wear and Nest devices, Chromebooks from Google and its partners, as well as accessories, cases, keyboards and chargers. For the time being, Google will offer free shipping for all purchases, too (but only if you choose the slowest shipping option). If you made any hardware purchases in the Play Store, all of that information will be automatically transferred to the Google Store.

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FTC charges DirecTV with fraud for misleading customers – DirecTV has been charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for misleading customers. The advertising in question was DirecTV’s 12-month discount package. The plan was advertised as costing only $19.95, but obscured from customers was the fact that a 2-year contract was needed to get deal. Even more astounding is that the FTC alleges that DirecTV charged customers for premium channels after a 3-month trial period, and DirecTV never told customers that they needed to cancel these channels in order to avoid being charged automatically.

Samsung launches Animal Edition battery packs to create social awareness – At the recently concluded Mobile World Congress, Samsung made sure that the attendees did not exhaust their smartphone’s juice by giving away a cute battery pack featuring images of animals; we did give one such battery pack away today. Now, it seems that the company has bigger plans for the device, as it has announced the availability of the battery pack for the masses. The device will be available in two sizes, one with 8400 mAh capacity and the other with 11300 mAh. Samsung has revealed that it wants to create awareness among people about these endangered animals through this innovative way.

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Google unveils Nearline, their hot new solution to cold storage – Some info stored in the cloud is important, and should be kept ready for quick access. Other stuff isn’t as necessary at the drop of a hat, and companies have the option to tuck it away. That ‘cold storage’ option could take hours to query, which isn’t ideal for businesses or their customers. Today, google rolled out a new option named ‘Nearline’. It’s more like lukewarm storage, where you won’t get the info instantly, but the three-second average return is much better than three hours.

IBM workforce declined 12% in 2014; losses tied to corporate divestitures – IBM is reporting its global headcount at 379,592, a decrease of 51,600 employees from the prior year. The data is included in the company’s recently filed annual report for 2014. In 2013, IBM employed 431,212 globally. Of this overall reduction, divestitures accounted for 35,000 employees.

Snapchat nabs investment from Alibaba for $15B valuation – Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has made an investment in Snapchat that could value the ephemeral message service at $15 billion, sources confirmed Wednesday. Alibaba has invested $200 million in the startup, which specializes in messages that vanish after they are read, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Games and Entertainment:

Sony to power off PlayStation Mobile on July 15 – PlayStation Mobile will soon be no more, ending Sony’s foray into expanding its gaming empire to smartphones and tablets. The PlayStation Mobile store shuts down on July 15. You can still download any games you’ve previously purchased through September 10 and continue to play them afterwards as long as you activate your device. To do this, you’ll need to grab the PlayStation Mobile app on a supported device.

Watch the first episode of PlayStation’s sci-fi original series Powers – Curious to see what PlayStation’s first original series is like? The first episode of Powers is now available on YouTube in its entirety. This is the first scripted original series for PlayStation, and it follows in the footsteps of rival Microsoft, who late last year debuted its own Xbox original series based, Halo: Nightfall.

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Dragon Age Inquisition is currently free for Xbox Live Gold subscribers – The promotion for Dragon Age Inquisition started last night, and if you own an Xbox One and are a Live Gold Subscriber you can play the game for free for almost a whole week. The last day of availability is the 16th but everything you do in game will get saved, including achievements, in case you decide to continue and purchase the full title.

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Game of Thrones to air in over 170 countries at the same time – Season five of Game of Thrones will premiere on April 12 and it will air at the same time in over 170 countries around the world. HBO will broadcast all ten episodes of the new season via HBO networks in other counties and with assorted partner networks airing the show as well. The show will air in these other countries at the same time the show airs in the US. I would assume that to mean it will be on the air at odd times in many of those other countries. In Australia Foxtel will be airing the series.

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Play Cards Against Humanity On the Web, for Free – You can now play the hilariously inappropriate game on your smartphone. A new site called Cards Against Originality lets you play the game with your friends on any smartphone, tablet, or computer — for free, right through your Web browser. The browser-basedapp is the brainchild of designer Dawson Whitfield, who acknowledged that the site is “a shameless copy of the real Cards Against Humanity.”

Off Topic (Sort of):

Intel Honors Trio of Top Teen Scientists – Intel this week handed out $150,000 prizes to three “teen geniuses” who placed first in this year’s edition of the Intel Science Talent Search competition sponsored by the chip giant and run by the non-profit Society for Science & the Public. Winners Noah Golowich, 17, of Lexington, Mass., Andrew Jin, 17, of San Jose, Calif., and Michael Hofmann Winer, 18, of North Bethesda, Md. were feted at a ceremony held Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

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Living Aerial Bot drone uses your smartphone as its brain – The Living Aerial Bot (LAB) is a drone with a twist, in that it uses your smartphone as its brain and face. The handset connects to the drone using Bluetooth or a wired connection, likely depending on the phone, delivering commands to the UAV’s on-board hardware. In addition, the related mobile app can also be used to display a “face” for the drone, such as an owl’s face or, depending on the situation, a live video feed used to give remote directions, such as in medical emergency situations.

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Watch NASA Fire Up the Biggest Rocket Ever Built – NASA on Wednesday fired up its Space Launch System (SLS) for the very first time and thankfully, we can watch the “largest, most powerful rocket booster ever built” produce 3.6 million pounds of thrust in two minutes of awesome. The SLS will be responsible for lifting NASA’s deep-space Orion crew vehicle into space, carrying astronauts to destinations like Mars and near-Earth asteroids.

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Why is killing such a central concept in video games? – On the PBS series “Game/Show,” host Jamin Warren discusses why the act of killing is such a fundamental game mechanic in video games from Mario Bros. to Grand Theft Auto.

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Porn and the patrol car—one cop’s 2 hour-a-day habit – Pornography, though prevalent in the modern world, still isn’t the sort of thing one expects to see while waiting in traffic behind a cop car. But pornography is exactly what an irate Wheaton resident named Robin said he witnessed. On the morning of September 18, 2013, while sitting in his conversion van and waiting for a stoplight to change, Robin found himself directly behind Wheaton Police squad car 359. The height of his seat gave him a perfect view through the rear windshield of the squad car, and he could see the car’s mobile data computer displaying “scrolling pictures of completely naked women.”

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When you watch enough porn that investigators have to compile spreadsheets, you know you’re in trouble.

Colorado Collects $2.3 Million In Marijuana Taxes For Schools In One Month – Colorado collected $2.3 million in excise taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana during the first month of 2015, 10 times the tax revenue generated in January last year. The 15% retail marijuana excise tax, which goes toward public schools and construction fees, earned exactly $2,332,843 in January 2015, according to a monthly report released by the state’s Department of Revenue. Last year, during the first month of sales, the school fund totaled $195,318. Residents voted in November 2013 for an aggressive 10% sales tax and a 15% excise tax on recreational marijuana sales. Medical and recreational cannabis-related revenue also comes from a standard sales tax, as well as license fees. Marijuana-related revenue not allocated to the school fund goes towards such things as substance abuse programs, medical research, and police training.

3D Systems gets 10,000 injured dogs running again with 3D printed knee implants – 3D Systems partnered with Rita Leibinger Medical to 3D print metal knee implants for thousands of dogs, which has sped up surgery and recovery for pets around the world.

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3D Systems built prosthetic legs for Derby the dog last year. Image: 3D Systems

Jet lag treatment discovered in a dish of living fruit fly brains – Todd C. Holmes, professor of physiology & biophysics in the UCI School of Medicine, is heading up this study using fruit flies in an attempt to better understand and hopefully solve the jet lag problem. What his team did was to extract the brains of fruit flies, placed them in a dish, and kept them alive for 6 days. During that time a single-cell resolution camera monitored the brains and what happened when a light pulse was used on them. The results are surprising and positive for regular long-distance travelers.

Something to think about:

“This new era of state surveillance can only breed a new generation of tools that make systems like TOR look like toys. No one wants to be watched, and as soon as someone, somewhere comes up with an effective means to render users invisible, it will be adopted by everyone, everywhere, almost instantaneously. That’s the way it ever was, only now we’re better at it than ever before, because we share everything we’re learning as fast as we learn it.”

–      Mark Pesce

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Dutch court suspends mandatory data-retention legislation – A district court in The Hague has struck down a Dutch law requiring telecommunications companies to retain customer data for law enforcement for between six and 12 months.

The law was first enacted in 2009 in response to the EU directive on data retention, which was subsequently struck down by the European Court of Justice in April 2014.

The court said at the time that the directive infringed on the rights to privacy and protection of personal data.

Since then, the laws in Europe around mandatory data retention have either been struck down or amended to accommodate the ruling.

Australians! Let us all rise up against data retention – There is still time to step away from a poisonous framing that presents only two options: the state and its nominated ‘enemies’. There’s an opportunity to build connections, to share with one another, learn from one another, and come to trust one another. That’s what civilised people do. Civilised people certainly don’t spy on their neighbors. That sort of behaviour should be called out for what it is – paranoid.

Some have argued that our security and the safety of our children demand these steps be taken. But if we think about our actions consequentially – something adults must do – then we need to acknowledge that mass surveillance will inevitably land us in a more chaotic and largely invisible online culture. That’s the way the world works. All those paranoia-fueled good intentions can’t change that.

Stuxnet leak probe stalls for fear of confirming US-Israel involvement – A criminal leak investigation into a top military official has stalled out of concern it could force US officials to confirm joint US-Israeli involvement behind the Stuxnet worm that targeted Iran’s nuclear program, according to a media report published Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors have been investigating whether retired Marine Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright leaked highly sensitive information to New York Times reporter David Sanger. A 2012 book and article authored by Sanger said Stuxnet was among the crowning achievements of “Olympic Games,” a covert program jointly pursued by the US and Israel to curb Iran’s attempts to obtain nuclear weapons. As reported in author and Wired reporter Kim Zetter’s book Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon, Stuxnet was first seeded to a handful of carefully selected targets before taking hold inside Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility. From there, the malware caused computer-controlled centrifuges to spin erratically, an act of sabotage that forced engineers to scrap the damaged materials.

According to an article published Wednesday by The Washington Post, the probe into Cartwright’s suspected leak to Sanger is generating tension between national security concerns and the Obama administration’s desire to hold high-ranking officials accountable to disclosing classified information.

AP sues State Department to speed up release of Hillary Clinton’s emails – A day after Hillary Clinton defended her decision to use a private email account for official government correspondence, the Associated Press is ratcheting up the pressure to release her messages. The AP said today that it’s filing a lawsuit against the State Department, requesting access to emails that could shed light on her tenure as Secretary of State. Among other things, it’s looking specifically for Clinton’s full schedule and calendar, conversations with advisers who will be instrumental in her presidential campaign, and any messages regarding NSA surveillance and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

The AP says it’s resorted to a lawsuit after the State Department failed to respond to five Freedom of Information Act requests over five years, and only partially fulfilled a sixth.

ACLU files new lawsuits in hunt for police ‘Stingray’ mobe-trackers – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California has filed another two lawsuits on Tuesday as the organisation’s campaign to bring information about StingRay cellphone surveillance devices into the public domain continues.

The lawsuits against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the Anaheim Police Department allege that both police agencies have violated state law by not providing documents requested regarding the use of the controversial equipment.

Most of the information publicly known about the StingRay device has come from such ACLU cases.

UK Parliament says it’s “technologically infeasible” to block Tor – The UK Parliament has published a report on the future of the darknet and online anonymity, and it came to the heartwarming conclusion that it would be “not seen as acceptable” to ban online anonymity systems. Furthermore, speaking specifically about Tor, the parliamentary report says it would be “technologically infeasible” to block people from using the service in the UK.

This report comes a couple of months after UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that encryption should be outlawed unless backdoor access is given to the government. “Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” Cameron said. At the time his comments were in response to the January attacks in Paris; strong encryption, so the argument goes, prevents intelligence and security agencies from foiling the plots of terrorists and other bad actors.

New smoking gun further ties NSA to omnipotent “Equation Group” hackers – Researchers from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab have uncovered more evidence tying the US National Security Agency to a nearly omnipotent group of hackers who operated undetected for at least 14 years.

The Kaspersky researchers once again stopped short of saying the hacking collective they dubbed Equation Group was the handiwork of the NSA, saying only that the operation had to have been sponsored by a nation-state with nearly unlimited resources to dedicate to the project. Still, they heaped new findings on top of a mountain of existing evidence that already strongly implicated the spy agency.

The strongest new tie to the NSA was the string “BACKSNARF_AB25” discovered only a few days ago embedded in a newly found sample of the Equation Group espionage platform dubbed “EquationDrug.” “BACKSNARF,” according to page 19 of this undated NSA presentation, was the name of a project tied to the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations.

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