Tag Archives: Edward Snowden

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – August 17, 2015

AT&T helped NSA spy on millions of Americans’ private calls, emails;   Volkswagen Spent Years Hiding This Huge Security Flaw;  10 Do’s and don’ts for every Android user;  Report claims Kaspersky faked malware to trip up competitors’ products;  10 ways your phone has embarrassed you in public;  Three Windows 10 Start menu tweaks that subtly improve your experience;  Stop the Flash madness – 5 bugs a week;  10 cross-platform messaging apps you shouldn’t overlook;  16 Instagram Tips for the Photo Obsessed;  How to get the most out of your rechargeable batteries;  Sick of Windows spying on you? Go Linux;  Zero-day flaw in Google Admin app allows malicious apps to read its files;  Parrot drones easily taken down or hijacked;  The 10 Best Wireless Speakers of 2015;  The 10 Best HDTVs of 2015;  How to Unlock Higher-Quality Xbox Streaming in Windows 10;  The 15 best Android puzzle games for teasing your brain.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

AT&T helped NSA spy on millions of Americans’ private calls, emails – Newly published documents published Saturday, provided by Edward Snowden in 2013, show the US cellular and telecom giant was in cahoots with the intelligence agency as far back as 1985, a relationship that later intensified following the September 11 terrorist attacks. More than two years after the first document was published by reporters, we’re now venturing into the portion of the documents disclosed by Snowden that are highly likely and previously suspected, but now finally confirmed. The report is long, and there are more than 70 pages to digest. Here some of the snippets from the ProPublica-New York Times report:

Stop the Flash madness – 5 bugs a week – On August 11, 2015 Adobe fixed 34 bugs in their Flash Player software. Many of the bugs enabled a computer to get infected with malicious software simply by viewing a web page. This most recent round of bug fixes comes 28 days after Adobe fixed two other Flash bugs, and 34 days after they fixed 36 bugs. Putting this in perspective, the Flash Player has been updated a dozen times so far this year (below). If you are reading this on August 18th, the odds are that Adobe has found, and not yet fixed, 5 new bugs in the Flash Player. Reading this on August 25th? Chances are you are vulnerable to 10 new Flash bugs. Five bugs a week.

Volkswagen Spent Years Hiding This Huge Security Flaw – First we had a report from a U.S. Senator on the security risks facing new car owners, and then the news that Fiat had recalled 1.4 million cars to address security flaws. And this week a paper is being presented at the USENIX security conference in Washington, D.C., on a security flaw affecting “thousands of cars from a host of manufacturers,” according to a Bloomberg News report. We could have known about these risks for some time, as the paper was actually written two years ago, but car makers like Volkswagen fought in court to keep the information private. According to Bloomberg:

10 Do’s and don’ts for every Android user – There are a lot of choices when it comes to making your Android phone all it can be, and a lot of nuance about which are the “best” choices to make. Everyone has an opinion about the best apps, home screen layouts, launchers, and so on. However, there are some enduring certainties that cannot be avoided. Here are ten “do’s” and “don’ts” for every Android user.

Three Windows 10 Start menu tweaks that subtly improve your experience – Wondering how to logout from the Start menu, improve the look and feel of the Start menu, taskbar, and action center, as well as get the Start screen back? Read on.

How to juggle multiple applications using Task View in Windows 10 – When it comes to managing multiple application windows, one of the most common tasks that you perform in the Windows operating system, Windows 10 really has it all! The new Task View virtual desktop feature makes it easy for you to spread out multiple applications. The enhanced Snap feature provides you with a great way to view and work with multiple applications on the same screen. The Shake and Peek feature, which was introduced in Windows 7 and still exist in Windows 10, allows you to zero in on a single application and quickly hide multiple applications respectively. Let’s take a closer look.

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10 cross-platform messaging apps you shouldn’t overlook – When choosing a messaging app, cloud-synchronized chat logs, contact lists, and settings are important considerations. Read about 10 cross-platform messaging apps worth checking out.

16 Instagram Tips for the Photo Obsessed – Are you snap happy? Then you probably have Instagram on your phone. The supersocial photo-sharing app has 300 million monthly active users, but there’s a lot more to the service than just selecting a filter. Read on for 16 more tips and tricks for Instagram.

Microsoft Drops Another Windows 10 Update – And then there were three. Earlier this week, Microsoft released a new set of updates for Windows 10, the third time it has done so since the operating system formally debuted in late July. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s attempt to build a single operating system that can function on devices of any size, or input variety. As before, the update comes with minimal documentation and explanation.

Sick of Windows spying on you? Go Linux – You can try to turn Windows 10’s data-sharing ways off, but, bad news: Windows 10 will keep sharing some of your data with Microsoft anyway. There is an alternative: Desktop Linux. You can do a lot to keep Windows 10 from blabbing, but you can’t always stop it from talking. Cortana, Windows 10’s voice activated assistant, for example, will share some data with Microsoft, even when it’s disabled. That data includes a persistent computer ID to identify your PC to Microsoft.

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Linux Mint looks like classic Windows, but without any of Windows 10’s privacy leaks.

Why you can’t find your product key after upgrading to Windows 10 – With Windows 10, Microsoft is doing away with the conventional product key for digital installs. You may never have to manage product keys again. When you use the free upgrade to Windows 10 or pay for a digital retail version, you don’t get a product key. Instead, your computer uses what Microsoft calls a digital entitlement.

Report: 50 million devices now run Windows 10 – How well is Windows 10 doing? Microsoft hasn’t said anything yet about how many people are running the new OS, but if figures reported by WinBeta are correct, it’s off to a strong start. According to WinBeta’s sources, Windows 10 is now running on at least 50 million devices (PCs and tablets).

How to get the most out of your rechargeable batteries – Seven tips for getting the best possible life out of the Li-Ion rechargeable batteries inside your smartphone, tablet or notebook.

The 10 Best Wireless Speakers of 2015 – Wireless speakers have exploded in popularity, and nearly every major consumer electronics vendor has a cord-cutting model of some sort. Speakers can vary wildly in size, shape, and even the type of wireless connection they use, but this list will probably have at least one speaker that’s right for you. Before anything else, though, you need to decide how you want to go wireless.

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The 10 Best HDTVs of 2015 – The HDTV market has been changing a lot recently, both in terms of technology and price. New types of screens with organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels and Ultra HD (UHD, or 4K) resolutions are popping up everywhere. Big, 50-plus-inch sets that once cost thousands of dollars can be had for around $500. If you want an HDTV, you have more options now than ever. But which one should you buy? Here are the main points to consider when shopping for a new set, as well as the 10 best HDTVs we’ve tested.

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iCloud.com now lets users restore deleted files – With no announcement whatsoever, Apple has just added a new feature to iCloud.com, the browser version of its cloud storage service, that has it rivaling Dropbox just a tad: the ability to restore recently deleted files. Unfortunately, the feature isn’t exactly easy to find, buried in the Advanced Settings menu, so most iCloud users may not even notice it exists. Should they find it though, they’ll be able to restore documents and other files, in addition to recently deleted contacts and calendar entries.

Microsoft sinks in antivirus tests, as Avira, Bitdefender hit top scores – The latest antivirus scores from the Madgeburg, Germany-based testing lab AV-Test ranks Windows Defender as the worst-performing anti-malware app out of the 22 most common consumer products tested. Breaking down that figure, the scores show the app protected against 89 percent of existing widespread malware threats, and 95 percent of new zero-day flaws. The app also scored a paltry score on performance, suggesting it hogs system resources, but scored top marks in user experience, indicating it is easy to use.

Security:

Zero-day flaw in Google Admin app allows malicious apps to read its files – An unpatched vulnerability in the Google Admin application for Android can allow rogue applications to steal credentials that could be used to access Google for Work acccounts. The flaw lies in the way Google Admin processes and loads URLs received from other applications inside a WebView—a simplified browser window.

Mozilla Makes Private Browsing More Private In Firefox, Adds Tracking Protection – Mozilla is testing a new private browsing mode in Firefox that doesn’t just keep no trace of your porn browsing habits on your machine but that also blocks online services that could track you while you’re surfing the web. That’s not unlike what plug-ins like Ghostery and the EFF’s Privacy Badger can do for you, but Firefox now combines that with its own incognito mode. This new experimental feature is now available in the Firefox Developer Edition for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as the Firefox Aurora channel on Android.

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Report claims Kaspersky faked malware to trip up competitors’ products – Two former employees of Kaspersky Lab have accused the malware protection software company of seeding competitors’ products with fake malware signatures intended to make them erroneously label benign files on customers’ computers as malicious. The allegations, made in a report published by Reuters Friday morning, have been strongly denied by a Kaspersky Lab spokesperson. According to Reuters, the “junk” files were tailored to have the same signature as legitimate files, based on the fingerprinting mechanisms of competitors’ products. To do this, the two former employees alleged, Kaspersky assigned employees to reverse-engineer competitors’ products to see how they identified malware and then tailored samples that would match the signatures of common, harmless files.

My browser visited Weather.com and all I got was this lousy malware – Millions of people visiting weather.com, drudgereport.com, wunderground.com, and other popular websites were exposed to attacks that can surreptitiously hijack their computers, thanks to maliciously manipulated ads that exploit vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash and other browsing software, researchers said. The malvertising campaign worked by inserting malicious code into ads distributed by AdSpirit.de, a network that delivers ads to Drudge, Wunderground, and other third-party websites, according to a post published Thursday by researchers from security firm Malwarebytes. The ads, in turn, exploited security vulnerabilities in widely used browsers and browser plugins that install malware on end-user computers.

Parrot drones easily taken down or hijacked, researchers demonstrate – In two separate presentations at Def Con in Las Vegas last weekend, security experts demonstrated vulnerabilities in two consumer drones from Parrot. The simplest of the attacks could make Parrot drones, including the company’s Bebop model, fall from the sky with a keystroke. In a live demonstration at Def Con’s Internet of Things Village on August 8, Ryan Satterfield of the security consulting firm Planet Zuda demonstrated a takedown of a Parrot A.R.Drone by exploiting the drone’s built-in Wi-Fi and an open telnet port on the drone’s implementation of the  BusyBox real-time operating system. Connecting to the drone gave him root access to the controller, and he was able to kill the processes controlling flight—causing the drone to drop to the ground.

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Apple squashes serious security bug with update to Mac OS X – Released on Thursday, Mac OS X 10.10.5 resolves scores of holes and technical glitches. But one serious bug in particular was squashed along with the rest. The vulnerability in an environment variable known as DYLD_PRINT_TO_FILE in Apple’s OS X was considered serious because it enables hackers to remotely run a program on a Mac using administrator rights, which opens up wide access to the entire operating system. The vulnerability had already been exploited “in the wild,” or in the real world, according to the Guardian, with at least one adware installer taking advantage of it.

Scan your Android for Certifi-Gate vulnerability – This flaw, dubbed Certifi-Gate, was discovered by Check Point and revealed at Black Hat in Las Vegas. The flaw uses a remote support tool’s security certificate to take total control over an Android device. Unfortunately, the Android platform offers no means of revoking the certificates issued to the vulnerable apps. The only way Certifi-Gate can be fixed is for the makers of the remote support tools to issues patches. This means that you are at the mercy of a third-party, and not all third parties are created equal. But which apps are vulnerable? Here’s the official list from Check Point:

Company News:

News Corp. CEO calls Google thieves (and other things) – News Corp. CEO Robert Thompson isn’t moved by Google’s new Alphabet. As Australia’s mUmbrella reports, in a speech at the Lowy Institute Media Awards, Thompson created his own lexicon of what Google’s Alphabet stands for. He said: “That Google’s newly conceived parent company is to be called Alphabet has itself created a range of delicious permutations: A is for Avarice, B is for Bowdlerize, through to K for Kleptocracy, P for Piracy and Z for Zealotry.” Thompson believes that Google represents a leech on the hard work of those who try to create original content, only to have it purloined by Google’s caring, sharing, Web-controlling ways.

IBM Teams With Canonical To Put Ubuntu Linux On Mainframes – You might not think that ‘Linux’ and ‘mainframe’ belong in the same sentence, but IBM has been putting various flavors of Linux on its mainframe computers for 15 years. Today IBM and Canonical announced that the two companies were teaming up to build one running Ubuntu Linux. The new unit is called the LinuxOne. The announcement comes as part of a broader strategy from IBM designed to drive mainframe usage to a wider audience. This new approach includes a monthly subscription pricing model, deeper involvement with other open source projects, contributing a huge cache of mainframe code to open source and participating in the newly launched Open Mainframe Project.

Court denies Samsung request for rehearing in Apple patent case – A U.S. appeals court has denied Samsung Electronics’ request for a rehearing in a smartphone patent infringement case that awarded rival Apple US$548 million. The case stems from a 2011 patent infringement lawsuit brought by Apple, alleging Samsung infringed on several iPhone patents related to the design and packaging of the smartphone. Fellow tech giants Google, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Facebook backed Samsung’s appeal of the damages.

Apple’s self-driving car plans may have just been outed – Apple’s supposed self-driving electric car efforts may be real — and far enough along for testing, according to a new report from the Guardian. The publication, citing documents it obtained under a public records act request, said Apple has met with officials from the GoMentum Station, a large former Navy weapons station near San Francisco that is being changed into a high-security testing area for self-driving cars.

Court dismisses Dallas Buyers Club’s letters to infringers – The Federal Court has ruled that Dallas Buyers Club cannot send the draft letters presented to court to the almost 5,000 Australian IP addresses that have allegedly breached its copyright by downloading infringing copies of the film.

Games and Entertainment:

How to Unlock Higher-Quality Xbox Streaming in Windows 10 – I’ve been having fun with Windows 10; it’s a pretty easy operating system for Windows enthusiasts to comprehend. For gamers, there’s the added perk of being able to play Xbox One games on your PC, especially if your computer setup is better than your TV. These games aren’t played on your PC. Microsoft just streams whatever you’re doing on your Xbox One to your computer, and any controller inputs are sent back to your console.

The 15 most anticipated PC games of (the rest of) 2015 – It’s August, which means we’re technically two-thirds of the way through the year. But don’t tell that to video games. We’re about to enter the vaunted “fall release cycle,” which means in the next three or four months publishers will release more big-name games than they’ve released since January. Like last year, though, delays have pushed some of the year’s most-anticipated titles back to 2016. But all is not lost. We’ve rounded up fifteen of the most interesting PC games still scheduled to release this fall, from Fallout 4 to SOMA.

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Fallout 4 – Nov. 10

Unreal wants you to mod dinosaur world with the ARK Dev Kit – This week the folks at Studio Wildcard and Epic Games have teamed up with Alienware to encourage creative folks to go wild in dinosaur-land. In the world of ARK, that is, a video game where the ancient world and the modern world mix in an absolutely wild open world environment. To begin, users need to sign up for a free Unreal account and download the ARK Dev Kit – which is no small task due to its size. The ARK Dev Kit is a cool 42GB in size. It’s massive. But it’s worth the wait. Inside you’ll be rolling around in code, aiming to create one of the following: New Maps, New Functionality, New Game Modes.

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The Witcher 3 mod tools: What can we expect? – Ever since the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt back in May, a steady flow of mods have been trickling out for the PC version of the game. However, pretty soon modders will be getting new tools to help make content creation even easier via the introduction of official mod tools by CD Projekt Red. But what can we expect from these tools? I recently got the chance to talk to CD Projekt Red about what The Witcher 3’s mod tools can do and what their plans are for mods in the future.

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The 15 best Android puzzle games for teasing your brain – No mater if you’re into match-three games, word puzzlers, engrossing adventures, or tricky touch-centric affairs, we’ve picked 15 essential Android puzzle games worth tossing on your phone or tablet. Whether you’ve got two minutes or two hours to fill, you’ll find some excellent choices within.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Brilliant GPS navigation system changes to children’s voice near schools – We often drive unconsciously. Our minds drift as our hand-eye coordination pilots our cars automatically. Until, sometimes, it’s too late. So a Scandinavian insurance company — the confidently named If Insurance — came up with an idea that seems blissfully simple, yet potentially very effective. It’s a GPS navigation system with a tiny difference. Whenever you’re driving near schools, day care centers or anywhere where there might be children, the system’s voice switches to that of a child.

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Why Google Became Alphabet, Explained In 120 Seconds – What are the pros and cons of Google reorganizing itself as Alphabet? Well, Larry gets to play with the future, Google can focus on more ambitious projects, and it could help the company retain top talent. But will the independent Alphabet company CEOs get frustrated relying on Larry for resources? Here’s everything you need to know in a quick two minute video.

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How to Get Started With a Fitness Tracker – If you just got your first activity tracker, whether a Fitbit or some other device, you’re about to become aware of your body and fitness level in a whole new light! Fitness trackers bring an awareness to our daily habits and patterns that few other devices can. As a huge proponent of fitness trackers, I personally test and try out as many of them as I can. I remember how it felt to get my first one, and how annoyed I was when I realized after several hours that I hadn’t set it up right! I also know that there are some aspects of fitness trackers you should learn about as soon as possible, because you need to use them for several days before they tell you anything meaningful.

The smartphone battleground of India — and why Xiaomi wants in – India is the world’s fastest growing smartphone market, predicted to overtake the US in just two years. And it’s already becoming one of the most bitterly fought-over pieces of turf in the global smartphone war.

Nerf’s new ‘Rival’ tactical guns are for grown ups, fire at 70MPH – Nerf guns are fun for a moment or two, but the combination of endless dart hunting and lackluster shooting speed/accuracy wears thin quickly. As such, the play rifles have largely been relegated to the realm of children, but that’ll be ending with the maker’s new ‘Rival’ lineup of tactical guns for competitive play. Nerf has been silently working on these new tactical arms for more than four years, and this week graced us all with a behind-the-scenes look at what went into making them. Pre-orders are live, but you’re probably too late: most of them are sold out already.

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Watch as astronauts soar over an Aurora Borealis in the space station – This isn’t your run-of-the-mill snapshot of the Northern Lights. The ten-second clip catches the spectacular moment right as the vibrant greens and violet swirls of light meet the blinding white of the sunrise. The scene, however brief, is otherworldly and reminiscent of fantastic sci-fi visages from the arts. It looks like something out of a Mass Effect cutscene or the psychedelic trip to “The Infinite and Beyond” in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Except this is no piece of fiction: this is real life, and it’s right here near Earth.

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10 ways your phone has embarrassed you in public – Sometimes your smartphone is a life-saver – like when it helps you avoid super awkward situations. But other times it’s not so awesome—like when it rings in the middle of your grandfather’s funeral service, or when your obsession with it causes you to fall into a fountain while texting: Here are 10 times your phone is not on your side. And in public, no less!

Something to think about:

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

–     Mae West

Downloads:

Kingsoft Writer Free 2013 – Kingsoft Writer Free 2013 is a totally free word processor program with the qualities matching Microsoft Word and includes a wide range of easy to use features. It is the best Microsoft Word replacement supporting all the Word file formats including .docx. The easy to use user interface makes Kingsoft Writer an attractive choice of software for complete beginners and even the most advanced users. In addition, it introduced lots of useful functions including a built-in Word to PDF converter, automatic spell check, web layout view, etc.

As a free word processor, Kingsoft Writer is more powerful compared with any other similar software, regardless of interface, operation, or storage format. With Kingsoft Writer, it is easy to create visually stunning documents and manage your files. Using the default format already defined, users can save the editor time from having format each document.

The latest version supports saving file as DOCX format.

Pointing up      I’ve used this free application for years. In fact, this is the application that I used to initially set up the web page you are now reading. The screen capture below is an example of my everyday usage of this super freebie.

WPS Office Free 2014 (which includes Kingsoft Writer Free), is also available.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Leaked NSA documents show AT&T had a ‘highly collaborative’ relationship with spy agency – New documents released by Edward Snowden reveal AT&T was far more than just a willing participant in the National Security Agency’s efforts to snoop on the world’s internet usage. NSA documents say that the agency had a “highly collaborative” relationship with AT&T, and the company is described as having an “extreme willingness to help.”

The new details come from a joint report from The New York Times and ProPublica. The key takeaway is that it appears AT&T was happy to help the NSA. It’s already been documented that the telecom giant, like other service providers, did not try to protect its customers’ privacy or make efforts to restrict the NSA’s reach. But it now seems clear that AT&T went out of its way to accommodate the NSA.

According to the joint report, AT&T installed surveillance equipment — at the NSA’s request — in no fewer than 17 internet hubs across the US. To put that in perspective, it’s said that Verizon, the other major telecom in the US, installed “far fewer” systems at its hubs. The NSA’s payments to AT&T for its cooperation — which were previously revealed to be $10 million in 2013 — are reportedly more than double what the agency paid for the second largest program. It’s likely Verizon was the recipient of the second-largest payments.

In addition, the documents reveal that AT&T provided the NSA with emails sent between foreigners years before Verizon started the practice.

The end of privacy as we know it: 60 Minutes uncovers huge mobile phone security vulnerabilities  – IT’S the dirty little secret that’s facilitating what’s being called the biggest breach of privacy ever.

Government, security agencies and the telecommunications industry will be forced to explain a security hole that allows hackers to listen in to conversations and hijack Australians’ mobile phones after it’s exposed by a 60 Minutes investigation, the program claims.

In an investigation into mobile security spanning three continents, reporter Ross Coulthart believes he has uncovered a security vulnerability that could affect any of us, and there’s nothing being done to stop it.

“What it means is that your smartphone is an open book,” he told news.com.au

“Criminals now have access to these huge security holes to steal your data and listen in to your calls. We know telephone companies know about it, we know security agencies know about it, but nothing is being done.” (recommended by Mal C.)

Harper (and friends – Tony Abbott and David Cameron) are a bigger threat than IS – Conservatives PMs Stephen Harper, Tony Abbott and David Cameron parrot the same message — selling fear to win votes.

The comedian Peter Sellers acting in the role of Inspector Clouseau has always been one of my investigative heroes. So, using Clouseau-like sleuthing skills, I think I have finally figured out what Stephen Harper must have meant in the recent Canadian election debate when he warned of an “international movement” presenting “a very serious menace to this planet, including to this country.”

I respectfully submit the following as evidence:

With the next three statements, made in recent days by separate individuals in three different countries, I ask you this question: What is the common thread?

“It would be absolutely foolish for us not to go after this group before they come after us.”

“This is the threat of our generation, the battle of our generation and the fight that we’re going to have.”

“They’re coming after us. We may not feel we are at war with them, but they are certainly at war with us.”

(Drum roll, please …)

And the answer is … conservative prime ministers!

These were words uttered recently by 1) Stephen Harper, Canada; 2) David Cameron, United Kingdom; and 3) Tony Abbott, Australia.

Their similarities are revealing. What links these three leaders, apart from their common ideology, is a remarkably identical — and extreme — approach to the challenges of today’s Middle East. In fact, there are growing signs that these politicians, all comrades in arms, are quietly working from the same playbook.

After all, the formula is simple: Wildly exaggerate the actual threat. Inflame the rhetoric. Blame Muslims. Brush aside issues of human rights. And strap in — while the votes flow your way. It is a clever way to distract voters from more immediate and genuine threats, such as climate change and the economy.

In my view, if this doesn’t fit the criteria of an “international movement” posing “a very serious menace to this planet,” I don’t know what does.

New York Times: The Closing of the Canadian Mind – THE prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has called an election for Oct. 19, but he doesn’t want anyone to talk about it.

He has chosen not to participate in the traditional series of debates on national television, confronting his opponents in quieter, less public venues, like the scholarly Munk Debates and CPAC, Canada’s equivalent of CSPAN. His own campaign events were subject to gag orders until a public outcry forced him to rescind the forced silence of his supporters.

Mr. Harper’s campaign for re-election has so far been utterly consistent with the personality trait that has defined his tenure as prime minister: his peculiar hatred for sharing information.

Americans have traditionally looked to Canada as a liberal haven, with gun control, universal health care and good public education.

But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is worried net neutrality might help the terrorists – In a remarkable feat, internet providers have apparently succeeded in making the net neutrality fight about terrorism. In a newly-published letter delivered to the Federal Communications Commission in May, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) raised concerns that the new net neutrality rules might be used to shield terrorists. In particular, Feinstein was concerned that Dzhokar Tsarnaev had studied bomb-making materials on the internet — specifically, online copies of AQAP’s Inspire magazine — and that many broadband providers had complained to her that net neutrality rules would prevent them from honoring any orders to block that content.

It’s quite a bind, and in the letter, Feinstein entreats FCC chair Tom Wheeler to assure providers that it isn’t true. The senator acknowledges that there are laws against material support for terrorism, and Title II only applies to legal web traffic, but “nonetheless, there is apparently confusion among at least some broadband providers on whether they may take such actions in order to promote national security and law enforcement purposes.”

This argument is nonsense for at least three different reasons.

Will Supreme Court force DHS to divulge secret plan to cut cell service? – The Supreme Court was asked in a petition to force the government to disclose the US clandestine plan to disable cell service during emergencies.

The case concerns Standard Operating Procedure 303. A federal appeals court in May said the government did not have to release its full contents because the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows the authorities to withhold records if they would “endanger” public safety.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center told the high court’s justices Tuesday that the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision created a new “catchall provision that can be used in any case involving records related to domestic and national security programs.” (PDF)

The privacy group had demanded the documents from the Department of Homeland Security in 2011 following the shuttering of cell service in the San Francisco Bay Area subway system to quell a protest. The Department of Homeland Security refused to divulge the documents associated with SOP 303, which the appeals court described as a “unified voluntary process for the orderly shut-down and restoration of wireless services during critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

Woman fined for Facebook pic of police car in disabled spot – In the US, citizens have begun to film the police with abandon.

In turn, the police have started to wear bodycams in order to capture what they see.

In Spain, however, a new gagging law has been enacted. It’s titled the Citizens Security Law.

When laws are named this way, you get the feeling that citizens’ security might not be their primary aim.

This law limits what people can post on social networks about, for example protests. It also prevents “the unauthorized use of images of police officers that might jeopardize their or their family’s safety or that of protected facilities or police operations.”

Oddly, this law has just been used to fine a woman who took a photograph of a police car. This particular car was parked (illegally) in a disabled spot.

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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 Daily Net News – April 8, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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Image: Square Enix

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–     Paula Poundstone

Today’s Free Downloads:

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

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

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

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

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

make your PC slower and cluttered

reduces free space available 

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

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

PrivaZer allows you to:

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

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

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

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 8, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 7, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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Art by Stephen Maurice Graham

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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Martin Vloet

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

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

Today’s Free Downloads:

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

Available for IE and Chrome.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 17, 2015

Online privacy nihilism runs rampant in US, survey says;  Hertz installs cameras and microphones in rental cars;  Here’s what Facebook will (and won’t) allow in your posts;  Skype for Business now available in preview form;  10 iPad apps you should be using;  Fun Fit app pits you against Facebook friends;  How to watch March Madness (even without cable);  The best apps for following March Madness on your Android phone or tablet;  Microsoft announces Office 2016 preview;  Brute force box lets researchers, Cops, pop iDevice locks;  What to do if someone steals your IP address;  Apple plans TV service with around 25 channels;  The Best iPhone Games of the Week;  Final Fantasy Type-0 HD Review;  The 11 funniest hacker attacks;  Fujitsu has a cool liquid answer to hot spots in smartphones;  Snowden tells tech bigwigs: It’s up to you to thwart mass surveillance.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Online privacy nihilism runs rampant in US, survey says – A majority of Americans have not altered their online behavior in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations detailing widespread US government electronic surveillance activities, according to a Pew Research Center survey published Monday. Not everybody is a privacy nihilist, however, as some Internet users are taking limited precautions, the nationwide study said. Thirty-four percent of respondents who said that “they have heard about” the spying programs have taken what the study described as “simple steps” and have done at least one of the following: altered the social media privacy settings, avoided some apps, used social media less, spoke more in person, deleted social media accounts, or “have not used certain terms in search engine queries they thought might trigger scrutiny.”

Pointing up     And because you don’t care – you get the following outrage. Better get use to fishbowl living!  Still, if you have nothing to hide…

Hertz installs cameras and microphones in rental cars – The company has been installing cameras and microphones in its NeverLost navigational systems. They’re not in all their rental cars. They’re only in the NeverLost 6 version, introduced last year. But clearly the presence of them might make one or two drivers wonder about their capabilities. A report in Fusion added to the consternation. Hertz told Fusion that around 1 out of every 8 of its cars had the cameras installed. But no, no, the company wasn’t actually going to use them. Was this because it sensed that this might be seen as a painful intrusion. Not quite. A Hertz spokeswoman told Fusion: “We do not have adequate bandwidth capabilities to the car to support streaming video at this time.” So it’s only the tech that’s holding Hertz back from keep tabs on its renters?

Here’s what Facebook will (and won’t) allow in your posts – You might have heard news that Facebook is changing up their rules a bit, releasing an update to their ‘Community Standards’ guidelines. Those rules are in place to safeguard the Facebook community at-large against content that is widely regarded as offensive or distasteful. But you’re not one of those people, right? We hope not, but some algorithm might not be able to pick up on your humor or purpose. Rather than leave things to chance, let’s clarify what can and can’t be posted to Facebook.

Three contact manager apps better than the one that came with your phone – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: your smartphone’s contacts app isn’t the best contact manager around. A wide variety of third-party apps is available, making it easier than ever to keep track of all those names and numbers. And just like your list of contacts, these apps are constantly being updated—some of them much improved since last time I looked at them.

Microsoft announces Office 2016 preview for IT professionals and developers – Microsoft has announced the launch of a new preview of Office 2016 for IT pros and developers, which you can sign up for right now – although the company points out that it’s not yet feature-complete.

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Skype for Business now available in preview form – Microsoft has just announced that it is releasing the first public preview of Skype for Business. The new program is designed to replace Lync and unify Microsoft’s offerings for the enterprise.

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Intel doesn’t want Curie wearable computer making fashion statements – The Curie, slated to ship in the second half of the year, was first shown at CES in the form of a button-sized computer on Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s suit. The almost invisible Curie had technology that could read heart rates, and transfer the data wirelessly using Bluetooth. Blending technology discreetly into wearables is Intel’s goal with Curie, which will go into a wide range of tiny coin battery devices that can run for days and months without a recharge. The wearable computer is for non-technical customers, such as companies outside of the IT industry, that want to plug and play technology into devices, clothes and accessories.

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10 iPad apps you should be using – Summary:Looking for apps for your iPad that you’ll actually end up using? These 10 apps are a good place to start.

YouTube Debuts A New Resource Site For Music Artists – The website aims to be more of guide to various resources available to music artists promoting their work on YouTube, and includes tips about how to get discovered, how to engage fans, and how to generate revenue, among other things. It also points artists to the newly launched “Cards,” which are interactive overlays that video publishers can use for a variety of purposes, including to help with raising funds via a crowdfunding campaign, selling merchandise, promoting upcoming shows, and more.

How to watch March Madness (even without cable) – Games will be streamed online and through the NCAA March Madness Live app. There’s even a trick to gain access to the games without a cable subscription.

The best apps for following March Madness on your Android phone or tablet – With these free apps you’ll be able to stream the game, follow your bracket, and catch all the scores from your phone or tablet. You’re on your own for bracket advice, though it’s not like you’re going to pick anyone besides undefeated Kentucky to win it all, anyway.

HTC new Fun Fit app pits you against Facebook friends – The latest tool in HTC’s quest to pump you up is Fun Fit, a fitness tracking app that turns you and your Facebook friends into zany animal avatars. It stores all the usual exercise information, like your number of steps, calories burned, and minutes that you work out daily. Fun Fit tries to be a little more, well, fun, by displaying your profile and any friends you drag in as cute animals. It works on most modern phones (not just HTC models), like the Galaxy Note 4, Nexus 6, and Galaxy S5. Fun Fit also compiles your records by day, week, and month for longer-term comparisons.

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Apple Watch apps you’ll want to use – Anyone who understands technology will know that while Apple may have created the Apple Watch, it will be developers who truly make it “smart.” Developers will be the people who create solutions that mean a few seconds’ exposure to the connected intelligence on our wrists may make a positive difference to our lives. There’s a huge amount of activity going on already, so things look interesting. Here are just a few apps you’ll want to use if you buy yourself an Apple Watch.

Here’s How Microsoft Will Fit Windows 10 Inside Inexpensive Devices – Microsoft detailed its efforts today to reduce the footprint of Windows 10, a forthcoming operating system that the software company hopes will run across devices of every screen size. Fitting Windows onto smaller devices, however, is a challenge, given that the operating system isn’t known for having a diminutive footprint. Windows 10 has two chief methods built into it to reduce its size. Already out in the market in Windows 10 build 9879 is the ability to compress its system files, shrinking the disk space needed to hold the operating system by 1.5 gigabytes for 32 bit builds, and 2.6 gigabytes for 64 bit editions.

Security:

Brute force box lets researchers, Cops, pop iDevice locks – Apple fans have more reason to update to iOS 8.2 with the discovery of a device used in the computer repair industry that automates password exploitation. The IP-Box tool exploits CVE-2014-4451 to conduct unlimited password guesses against iOS devices on 8.1 and below for iPhones and iPads. A barrage of PINs are entered by resetting the phone which thanks to the since-patched vulnerability bypasses Cupertino’s rate-limiters and settings to nuke personal data after a set about of failed attempts. Attacks against four-digit PINs take a maximum of 17 hours with each attempt taking about six seconds to complete. The total time could be reduced by prioritising the most likely passwords a target user may pick, or by selecting a pre-defined option to test date of birth combinations.

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Yahoo’s new on-demand password system is no replacement for two-factor authentication – In an effort to simplify authentication for its services, Yahoo has introduced a new mechanism that allows users to log in with temporary passwords that are sent to their mobile phones. If this sounds like a two-factor authentication system where users need to provide one-time codes sent to their mobile phones in addition to their static passwords, it’s not. Yahoo already had that option. Instead, the new log-in mechanism, which is based on what Yahoo calls on-demand passwords, still relies on a single factor, the user’s phone number.

What to do if someone steals your IP address – Neither your ISP nor anyone else can actually tell what you are doing on the Internet. But they can follow the activity of your public IP address—the one your router uses to access the Internet. And if someone else uses that address for unsavory purposes, you could become a prime suspect.

Company News:

eBay launches high-end auctions with Sotheby’s – eBay is taking another step into high-end auctions. Delivering on a partnership announced last summer, eBay is today launching a new area of its website built specifically for the auction house Sotheby’s. The section provides a much cleaner and more informative experience than you’d find elsewhere on the site and allows visitors to register for online access to live auctions. While browsing items up for auction at Sotheby’s, you’ll be able to quickly skip from one item to the next and read information about each piece. There will also be editorial content interspersed, targeted toward new collectors.

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Pinterest valued at $11B after latest round of funding – Pinterest has raised $367 million in its latest round of financing, giving it a valuation of $11 billion and making the social discovery site one of the most valuable venture capital-backed startups. The makers of the visual bookmarking tool confirmed the financing Monday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company is looking to raise as much as another $211 million, a spokeswoman said, for a total of $578 million raised in the Series G round.

Verizon Cloud now live in Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore – Summary:Verizon Cloud has debuted in Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong as part of the company’s aim to be an end-to-end cloud solutions provider for large, small, and medium-sized corporations.

Nintendo Announces Plans to Expand Into Mobile Gaming – You may soon be able to play iconic video games like Super Mario Bros. on your smartphone, according to an announcement by the game’s parent company, Nintendo, on Tuesday. Nintendo said it would partner with mobile gaming company DeNA Co. to develop “gaming applications” for smartphones and other non-console devices, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Games and Entertainment:

Apple plans TV service with around 25 channels after falling out with Comcast: WSJ – Apple’s long-rumored online TV service could be announced as soon as June, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company is reportedly preparing to offer a service with around 25 channels from broadcasters like ABC, CBS, and Fox and launch it this September across all iOS devices and the Apple TV. The bundle could include the likes of ESPN and FX, and Apple is said to be pushing for a large on-demand library, but it will likely leave out a lot of smaller networks. Recode said last month that Apple was in talks with broadcasters to offer bundles of content.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD Review – To suggest that Final Fantasy Type-0’s international release was “long awaited” would be a gross understatement. The original game (pre-HD)’s demo was first released in August of 2011, back before the first whispers of an 8th-generation console release. Originally titled Final Fantasy Agito XIII for its non-HD PSP release, this game was eventually re-named Final Fantasy Type-0, so named for its original approach in battle in the Final Fantasy universe. Here we’ve got Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, a game that’s been in development since mid-2012 for release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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Battlefield: Hardline review impressions: Crossing the thin blue line – Battlefield Hardline, a cops vs. robbers spin on the military shoot ’em ups, actually shakes up the series’ tried-and-true formula so much that it barely even feels like Battlefield anymore. Hardline’s singleplayer campaign is an entirely different beast. You play the part of Nick Mendoza, a rookie cop who lands in Miami’s Vice department. Yes, like the TV show. And that’s important, because Hardline is itself taking cues from TV. The entire campaign is set up like an episodic TV show, right down to a Netflix-style “Next Episode” overlay in between missions.

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

Flying Cars Could Be a Reality By 2017 – Though it’s not exactly what The Jetsons predicted, AeroMobil’s flying car may hit the road—er, sky—as soon as 2017. During an appearance at this week’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, AeroMobil CEO Juraj Vaculik said the company hopes to release its first model within three years, The Verge reported. Vaculik described three “prisons” of modern commuting, which he apparently likened to a communist regime: the traffic prison, airport prison, and prison of bad infrastructure. AeroMobil is based in Slovakia, formerly a part of the old USSR’s Czechoslovakia client state.

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Stunning Loch Ness fireball illuminates shadowy monster’s home – The most famous photos ever taken on Scotland’s Loch Ness tend to feature fuzzy profiles of mythic creatures, or perhaps fuzzy, creature-shaped shadows, depending on your level of skepticism. But the above photo taken Sunday around 9 p.m. GMT shows another otherworldly feature over the Scottish lake with remarkable clarity. Local tour guide John Alasdair Macdonald, who runs thehebrideanexplorer.com, said he just happened to get lucky when he snapped the picture of a shooting star reaching fireball-level luminosity as the meteor streaked toward the ground.

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The 11 funniest hacker attacks – Black hat cyber-terrorists use their 1337 skills for all kinds of nefarious purposes, but sometimes they just want a good laugh. The prankster mentality has been a part of hacker culture since the beginning, and in this feature we’ll run down the eleven most hilarious times computers were compromised for lulz.

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Many of the best computer hacks reach out into the real world as well, as this illustrates.

Fujitsu has a cool liquid answer to hot spots in smartphones – Fujitsu has developed an approach to cooling smartphones that it claims can achieve five times greater heat transfer than metal or graphite sheets. One of the side effects of packing smartphones with ever more powerful components into smaller spaces is heat, which can be uncomfortable for the user and cause wear and tear on components.

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Would you trust Google to decide what is fact and what is not? – Summary:A Google research project is looking at ways to rank pages based on the accuracy of facts on each page. Could this ignite a firestorm of political and religious disagreement?

Something to think about:

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Today’s Free Downloads:

XnView Extended – XnView is an efficient multimedia viewer, browser and converter.

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XnView is provided as FREEWARE (NO Adware, NO Spyware) for private or educational use (including non-profit organizations).

If you enjoy using XnView, Don’t hesitate to help the developer with a small donation.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

A Steady Erosion Of Confidence In Government – Governments around the world are facing significant political turmoil and enormous economic stress as they struggle with an alarming and unprecedented array of public-policy crises.

And whether it’s water scarcity in Brazil, the rural electricity shortfall in India, the financial meltdown in Russia, or income inequality in the U.S., public-sector leaders often seem overmatched and overwhelmed at a time when solutions and answers are needed.

To make matters worse, government officials are being challenged by citizen, business, media and employee stakeholders to address critical issues in operations, governance and elections. The repercussions from these issues – which include transparency, accountability, budgeting, spending, regulation and bureaucratic performance – have steadily eroded confidence in public institutions and public officials.

Snowden tells tech bigwigs: It’s up to you to thwart mass surveillance – SXSW 2015 In a quietly arranged Q&A session at South by Southwest (SXSW) on Sunday morning, Edward Snowden told about thirty influential people from the tech world that the onus for thwarting mass surveillance was falling to them.

Snowden had previously spoken at SXSW with the American Civil Liberties Union, explaining to attendees the “massive scale” on which he believed the US Constitution was being violated by the spooks’ mass-surveillance operations.

His talk on Sunday morning, however, was more private and directed specifically at technology companies, with few other parties invited by the SXSW organisers.

The Verge spoke to Sunday Yokubaitis, president at Golden Frog, a global online services provider, who attended the gathering and described Snowden’s question-and-answer session as a “call to arms”.

Yokubaitis said that Snowden was encouraging a greater adoption of end-to-end encryption.

“The low-hanging fruit is always [the] transit layer,” the NSA whistleblower reportedly said. “It raises the cost. Every time we raise the cost, we force budgetary constraints.”

Tech companies’ responsibility for managing their users’ privacy has been a standard concern for users since before the revelations regarding global surveillance began to be published.

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EU Parliamentarians visit U.S. to talk data protection, mass surveillance – A delegation of 11 MEPs, all members of the Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE), are in Washington to discuss major issues. One of them is the renewal of the so-called Safe Harbor deal that regulates the transfer of personal data of EU citizens to the U.S.

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations about U.S. government spying, the European Commission—the E.U.’s executive branch—gave the U.S. 13 demands that it wanted met in order for the Safe Harbor deal to continue. So far, however, no agreement has been reached. A summer 2014 deadline was postponed and the Commission now hopes to conclude talks on the deal by the end of May.

If that does not happen though, the deal could be suspended, which would have huge implications for U.S. tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, who use the agreement to process EU citizen data in the U.S.

Government Requests For Facebook Data Decrease In U.S. And UK, But Rise In India – The total number of requests from governments received by the world’s largest social network rose from 34,946 in the first half of the year, to 35,051 between July and December 2014.

Facebook is the de facto social media in most of the world, so it’s no surprise that the site is one of the first places that authorities turn to when they seek information about individuals. Facebook disclosed that it saw 14,274 requests from the U.S. government for information about users, 79 percent of those requests saw Facebook provide data. That figure represents a slight reduction on 15,433 requests in the first half of 2014.

India was the second highest government on Facebook’s list, with 5,473 requests made during the final six months of last year. That’s perhaps unsurprising — the country’s approach to censorship was highlighted when ISPs were told to block 30 websites, including GitHub in December.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 26, 2015

It’s official: NSA spying is hurting the US tech economy;  Bloatware: Why computer makers fill your PC with junk, and how to get rid of it;  Android for Work: what is it?  Google now lets you upload 50,000 songs to the cloud for free;  The five best iOS notification center widgets;  Ubuntu 14.04.2 arrives;  Hands On with Microsoft’s wireless charging pad;  Microsoft opens Garage door, shows off experimental apps;  Plex: Hey, it’s not just for pirates anymore;  The 7 Best Facebook Alernatives You Didn’t Know About;  Car Owners Find High-Tech Systems Unreliable;  Facebook fixed 61 high-severity flaws last year;  Iran, U.S. Locked in Escalating Cyberwar;  The best Android games you need to play (right now);  Citing encryption, FBI lobbying to keep phone metadata spying powers.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Chinese government continues dropping foreign tech in favor of local products – China’s interest in moving toward products made within the country appears to be twofold: it removes security concerns around foreign products and bolsters its own tech industry. It’s not clear which is more important to the country. The sources Reuters spoke with seem to believe that security concerns may just be a cover story, but it’s not an entirely unreasonable one, particularly in light of the ongoing revelations about how far US spy agencies are willing to go for information. The US, too, has shown an unwillingness to trust foreign tech, with much being made of its frequent restrictions on the large Chinese telecom firm Huawei.

It’s official: NSA spying is hurting the US tech economy – A new report confirmed key brands, including Cisco, Apple, Intel, and McAfee — among others — have been dropped from the Chinese government’s list of authorized brands, a Reuters report said Wednesday. – Although a number of reasons were cited, domestic companies were said to offer “more product guarantees” than overseas rivals in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. Some reports have attempted to pin a multi-billion dollar figure on the impact of the leaks. In reality, the figure could be incalculable.

Windows 365 will be Windows, plus a little bit more – There’s been rumor and speculation about Microsoft switching the Windows operating system to a subscription-based model since it launched Office 365. When Microsoft unveiled the latest preview build of Windows 10, executives referred to it as Windows-as-a-Service. Now, Microsoft has all but confirmed that some sort of subscription model is coming, since it trademarked Windows 365. Some customers are vehemently opposed, but before you freak out, let’s back up a step and consider what a Windows 365 subscription might entail.

Pointing up   Personally, I would refuse to be part of a subscription based operating system. Should Microsoft attempt to force the issue, my focus would switch from running with Linux 20% of the time to running with Ubuntu, for example, full time. The idea that a Linux distro is clunky or otherwise handicapped, or difficult to use, is sheer propaganda – this is not 1999.

If you’re using an Android smartphone – then, you’re already running with a variation of Linux. How hard was that? 

Android for Work: what is it? – Today Google revealed their newest Android-based initiative: Android for Work. This system brings several work-related technology to the Android software universe for businesses of all kinds. Four key technology components are included: Google Play at Work, the Android for Work app, Work profiles, and built-in productivity tools of all kinds. This system is launching with a large collection of industrial technology partners that have Google scoring big with potential for business-related engagement through Android – this includes smartphones, tablets, and everything in-between.

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Bloatware: Why computer makers fill your PC with junk, and how to get rid of it – Lenovo’s Superfish debacle has thrust bloatware back into the limelight. Here’s why PC makers intentionally make your PC experience worse, and how to blast the crap off your computer.

The five best iOS notification center widgets – You may have been one of the many to shout “Finally!” when widgets came to iOS. Whether you’ve used them before on Android or were just waiting for that kind of flexibility on iOS, you finally have one touch access to key apps. It’s taken developers a while to fully utilize this new functionality to its potential, but we’re finally seeing the fruits of their labor. Here is a roundup of some of the apps that put widgets to their best use.

Google now lets you upload 50,000 songs to the cloud for free – Google’s taking a big step out in front of its music streaming competitors today. The company has just announced that effective immediately, you’ll be able to upload up to 50,000 songs from your personal music collection and store them in the cloud through Google Play Music — all for free. The previous limit was 20,000.

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Facebook suicide prevention tool update inbound – Cries for help come in many forms, and in our digital age, many of them take place online. Facebook, being one of the biggest social networks out there, is peppered with depressed, suicidal, and otherwise troubling statuses making one’s personal anguish known to a larger audience. The social network has previously had a tool that aimed to help those who might be suicidal, and now the network is updating it to be more robust. With the update, those who may be suicidal are temporarily locked out of their account. Posts flagged as being suicidal will be shuttled off to Facebook workers trained in suicide prevention. That user’s account will be temporarily blocked, and the user won’t be able to get access again until they are presented with a Facebook page showing information on preventing suicide, a suicide hotline, and an option to contact one’s friends over it.

Hands On with Microsoft’s wireless charging pad, the DT-903 – A few weeks back, Microsoft started shipping the DT-903, a wireless charging pad and we have gotten our hands on one; after the jump is a gallery of the new device.

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Twitter Finally Launches An Official WordPress Plug-In – There are hundreds upon hundreds of Twitter-related plug-ins for WordPress. Seriously, go look. And yet, in its nine years since launch, Twitter has never released an official plug-in to make WordPress and Twitter play friendly. Until today.

Google officially launches Flights, their Search-friendly travel tool – As the travel booking game tightens up via acquisitions, Google is set to muscle their way in. Though Expedia and Travelocity are toeing the line, Google is also ready to get involved with Google Flights, a new Search item that finds you the best deal on your travel. Flights works as you might expect, too: put in your departure city, an arrival destination, and Flights will find you the best deal. Flights is also neat because you don’t even need to know where you’re headed.

Ubuntu 14.04.2 arrives with updated hardware support and a new Linux kernel – Canonical just released Ubuntu 14.04.2, the second point-release of the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS series. As always, this point release brings hardware support updates so you can continue installing Ubuntu 14.04 on new PCs. You won’t get the hardware support updates on existing PCs, though—if your computer’s hardware doesn’t all work properly, you’ll want to update it yourself. Let’s dig in.

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Panasonic’s new 4K VIERA LED TV line to run Firefox OS – The platform wars are moving to smart TVs. Don’t believe it? Samsung is putting Tizen on all its smart TVs this year. LG’s own sets already have webOS inside. Now Panasonic is joining the fray, but not with an operating system that it has developed itself. As it showed at CES last month, the consumer electronics maker is betting big on Firefox OS and it is announcing that all the members of its new 4K VIERA TV line will be employing the web-based platform for its user interface.

Plex: Hey, it’s not just for pirates anymore – Plex doesn’t exactly hide the fact that it’s a killer app for pirated video. Just look at the marketing materials for the media server software, and you’ll see how easy it is to stream your collection of movies and TV shows to all your devices.    Hey, I’m not here to judge. But I was interested to see if Plex could be a valuable tool for law-abiding cord cutters as well. After playing around with the software and asking some kind folks on Reddit, I’ve found some legal uses for Plex that are worth checking out.

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Microsoft opens Garage door, shows off experimental apps – The Garage incubator releases apps for Windows Phone and Android that range from giving you reports on air quality in China to connecting you to conference calls using voice commands.

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Car Owners Find High-Tech Systems Unreliable – Modern cars have more high-tech bells and whistles than ever before, but technologies like Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition rank as the least dependable vehicle systems, according to a new study by J.D. Power.

The 7 Best Facebook Alernatives You Didn’t Know About – Your Facebook friends are boring. Your Twitter followers sound like a bunch of parrots. And your LinkedIn contacts, well, who wants to talk about work all day, anyway? Amazingly, in 2015, it’s still possible to feel like you’ve reached the end of the Internet, especially if you rely on your social networks for news and amusement. But there are more ways to connect with people online than the three most popular social networks. In fact, smaller networks are some of the best places to dig into topics you care more deeply about. So sign up and check out at one of these great alternative social networks:

Security:

EFF unearths evidence of possible Superfish-style attacks in the wild – It’s starting to look like Superfish and other software containing the same HTTPS-breaking code library may have posed more than a merely theoretical danger to Internet users. For the first time, researchers have uncovered evidence suggesting the critical weakness may have been exploited against real people visiting real sites, including Gmail, Amazon, eBay, Twitter, and Gpg4Win.org, to name just a few. Until now, that danger was nothing more than a troubling hypothetical, but no more. On Wednesday, researchers presented evidence attackers have exploited the weaknesses in Superfish and the other programs to launch real man-in-the-middle attacks on end users as they visited some of the most sensitive HTTPS-protected websites on the Internet.

Lenovo’s bad week gets worse: website hacked by Lizard Squad – After publicly admitting to poor business decisions regarding the pre-loaded Superfish software on Lenovo machines, Lizard Squad decides the company could use a good hacking as punishment.

Europol and security vendors disrupt massive Ramnit botnet – European law enforcement agencies seized command-and-control servers used by Ramnit, a malware program that steals online banking credentials, FTP passwords, session cookies and personal files from victims. Researchers from antivirus vendor Symantec described the malware program as “a fully-featured cybercrime tool” in a blog post Wednesday and said that it infected over 3.2 million computers over its five years of existence.

Target Says Credit Card Data Breach Cost It $162M In 2013-14 – Target today said that it has booked $162 million in expenses across 2013 and 2014 related to its data breach, in which hackers broke into the company’s network to access credit card information and other customer data, affecting some 70 million customers. The figure, revealed in the company’s Q4 earnings published today, includes $4 million in Q4, and $191 million in gross expenses for 2014, as well as $61 million gross for 2013. Target says that the gross number was offset in part by insurance receivables of $46 million for 2014 and $44 million for 2013.

Apple patent reveals tracking capabilities even if phone appears off – Apple is getting a bit of interest over patent news today, and not just because of a patent lawsuit the company lost in court yesterday. A new patent filed in January could allow for stolen iPhones and iPads to be tracked even when they are powered down. The patent, titled “Apparatus and Method for Determining a Wireless Device’s Location after Shutdown” looks to tie into the Apple “Find My iPhone” app that works to triangulate the position of an iPhone to help its owner recover a lost/missing device. This new technology, if functioning properly, would allow iPhone and perhaps iPad owners to see the current location of their devices even if the units are powered down.

Facebook fixed 61 high-severity flaws last year through its bug bounty program – In 2014, the company paid bug bounties totaling $1.3 million to 321 researchers from 65 countries, according to a newly published annual report. The average reward was $1,788 and the top three countries where valid bug reports originated were India, with 196 submissions; Egypt, with 81 and the U.S. with 61. It’s worth noting that, based on the statistics released by the company, finding a critical bug is not that easy. Facebook received 17,011 bug submissions in 2014 and those resulted in only 61 high-risk bugs being identified.

Iran, U.S. Locked in Escalating Cyberwar – Cyberwarfare between the U.S. and Iran has been accelerating at an alarming rate since 2012, according to a recently disclosed document from the NSA. The top-secret and classified document confirms that the two countries have developed and deployed technology for spying and sabotage, a situation that has escalated dramatically in the last three years.

Company News:

Apple ordered to pay half a billion dollars for patent infringement – A federal jury in Texas has ordered Apple to pay more than half a billion dollars after the company was found guilty of infringing three patents held by a local company. The patents, held by Smartflash LLC, relate to digital rights management, data storage and access through payment systems. They were seemingly infringed upon by Apple’s iTunes and some of the apps found in the App Store, though the plaintiff also mentioned the Mac App Store, and iAd as avenues for infringement.

Samsung faces complaint in US FTC over Smart TV ‘surveillance’ – A complaint filed by a privacy group to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission charged that Samsung’s Smart TVs intercept and record private communications of consumers in their homes, violating a number of rules including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has asked the FTC to investigate and stop the practice by Samsung of collecting private communications and transmitting the recordings to a third party.

Despite a billion viewers, YouTube has zero profit – It’s hard to image that YouTube, as ubiquitous and gigantic as it is, has never turned a profit. But that’s exactly what a new report explains, alongside the myriad challenges that the site faces.

Pointing up   Big Deal! YouTube has always been positioned as a “loss leader” for Google. Why the fuss now?

Google chairman Eric Schmidt will reportedly meet EU antitrust commissioner next week – After recent discussions with Microsoft, Axel Springer and other complainants against Google, the EU’s antitrust chief will meet with Schmidt in the latest stage of Europe’s 4-year investigation.

Uber goes free in Seoul as pressure from city government mounts – The car-hailing service has been operating despite the city’s argument that it’s illegal. It says its latest move is an effort to establish “a consensus” with government officials.

Games and Entertainment:

The best Android games you need to play (right now) – Finding a good game to play is hard — so many options! Fret not, I’m here to help with a with a heap of games you should probably toss onto your Android phone or tablet, posthaste. Stow your pitchforks: the games here aren’t listed in any particular order, and while I’d love to play everything under the sun, pesky responsibilities get in the way. These are just my current favorites, and it’s likely I missed some of yours. Here’s an idea: post your favorites in the comments, as I’ll be updating this regularly and don’t want to miss too many gems. Also, note that all prices are in US dollars.

The New Razer Blade Is The Gaming Laptop To Beat – Like its predecessor, this year’s Razer Blade packs in a 14-inch, 3200 x 1800 pixel screen. It looks pretty from most angles and can get quite bright, and has a touch screen if you’re one of the Windows 8 users who actually takes advantage of touch-friendly menus. Photos and video really pop on the display — it’s not quite 4K, but considering it’s already past the point of not being able to discern pixels at reasonable distances, that’s not something anyone is going to miss.

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Chat App Viber Opens Its Games Service To All Users Worldwide – Messaging app Viber has quietly made its games service available for all users worldwide following a two month pilot in five countries. The company, which was bought by Rakuten for $900 million a year ago, initially launched three games for users in Belarus, Malaysia, Israel, Singapore and Ukraine in December 2014. The titles — Viber Candy Mania, Wild Luck Casino and Viber Pop, links to which popped up in my app today — are standalone apps that link up to Viber to let users share scores, battle and generally interact with friends on the service.

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Netflix Expands Its Kids’ Lineup With Five New Shows, Including An “Inspector Gadget” Reboot – Netflix this morning announced it’s preparing to expand its lineup of original and exclusive programs aimed at children with an order of five new kids’ shows, including remakes of well-loved classics like Inspector Gadget and Danger Mouse. While children today may not be familiar with these titles themselves, their Gen X and millennials parents likely are – and they’re Netflix’s paying subscribers.

Nickelodeon Unveils “Noggin,” A Mobile Subscription Service For Preschoolers Arriving In March – Nickelodeon today unveiled its new mobile streaming subscription service called Noggin, which will be aimed at preschoolers and priced at $5.99 per month when it launches next month. Parent company Viacom had previously announced the forthcoming service’s arrival in January, noting also that the service would not require households to have a cable or satellite TV subscription in order to access its content.

Sub-$100 Gaming Headset Roundup – Having only ever bought relatively cheap headsets with proportionally cheap audio quality, it seems about time for me to upgrade. In the process of settling on a new headset, I’ve acquired six sub-$100 gaming-oriented models from separate hardware manufacturers to compare in a roundup. I have models from Kingston, Polk, Gigabyte, Razer, Logitech and Tesoro. Most of these companies are not known for their audio products, so it’ll be interesting to see what they deliver. It goes without saying but we will anyway: audiophiles may want to bail now because these headsets aren’t for you.

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Amazon shuttering Unbox on March 29th; download your movies now – Amazon notified customers that Unbox, the tool used to download and play movies offline, is officially closing on March 29th, at which time customers will lose all access to their purchased content.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Alan Turing’s Family Wants Britain to Pardon All 49,000 Gay Men Convicted of ‘Gross Indecency’ – The family of Alan Turing, the legendary mathematician who helped crack the Nazi Enigma code and hasten the end of World War II, is championing a campaign to pardon nearly 50,000 men who were convicted of “gross indecency” under antiquated laws banning gay sex in Britain. Turing, whose story inspired the 2015 Oscar-winning movie The Imitation Game, was himself convicted of indecency in 1952. He was chemically castrated and two years later, at the age of 41, died in an apparent suicide, after taking a bite of a cyanide-laced apple. While Turing was offered a royal pardon in 2013, campaigners argue that the Queen should have extended the measure to include all those affected. An estimated 15,000 men who were convicted under the outdated law are thought to be alive today.

Curiosity Mars rover takes its most impressive selfie yet – Curiosity continues to be one of the most successful robotic missions in the history of space exploration, but it’s not all work for this Mars rover. Sometimes it likes to have a little fun up there and take some selfies. The latest Curiosity selfie was taken at the “Mojave” site at the base of Mount Sharp, and it’s an amazing view. This camera has a resolution of just 1600 x 1200, or about 2 megapixels. If you piece together enough images taken with the MALI camera, though, you can create massive images. This mosaic is an example of that with a total resolution of 18,029 x 9,233. It’s the equivalent of more than 166 megapixels. You can download the full resolution image here, but be aware it’s a 32MB JPEG. That’s gigantic by image standards. Many programs and computers will choke on it.

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NASA satellite shows how much sand from the Sahara is in the atmosphere – NASA is using one of its satellites to determine how much sand from the Sahara Desert in Africa ends up helping the Amazon rainforest in South America to grow. While the two locations are on different continents, the amount of dust from the desert that makes its way to the rain forest will surprise you. NASA used one of its satellites to quantify how much dust from the desert makes it to South America for the first time.

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Vintage X-rays reveal the hidden effects of corsets – In 1908, a doctor used X-rays to highlight the damaging effects of tight corsets on a woman’s body.

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Google’s AI wins Space Invaders, proves “human-level control” – A new study has been published this week which suggests that artificial intelligence can now learn “human-level control.” The team of researchers come from Google’s DeepMind, where they’re using Space Invaders – the video game – to show how the search for truly human artificial intelligence isn’t too far off. The machine learns to play the video game, learns to win at the video game, and dominates all humans at the game they’ve created to help us defend our planet against the alien hordes.

Something to think about:

“A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.”

–      Dorothy C. Fisher

Today’s Free Downloads:

X-Mouse Button Control – X-Mouse Button Control is a windows application to remap your mouse buttons.

You are able to provide an application specific mappings, which means one application can use the mouse differently from another. This is useful for games which do not inherently support the extended mouse buttons, because you can map keys to each button.

What’s more, the list of functions available to map to is somewhat more comprehensive than the 32bit MS Intellimouse Software can handle, including things like:

Copy/Cut/Paste

Volume Up/Down/Mute

Media Player control

Send a custom keystroke sequence

Launch your email (or any other) application.

Capture screen (or active window) image to clipboard.

Click-Drag [Sticky Buttons].

Save and restore desktop icon positions.

Vista (and Windows 7) support including some Vista/7 only featurs such as ‘Flip 3D’.

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SoftPerfect Network Scanner – SoftPerfect Network Scanner is a free multi-threaded IP, NetBIOS and SNMP scanner with a modern interface and several advanced features. It is intended for both system administrators and general users who are interested in computer security. The program pings computers, scans for listening TCP ports and displays which types of resources are shared on the network (including system and hidden).

In addition, it allows you to mount shared folders as network drives, browse them using Windows Explorer, filter the results list and more. SoftPerfect Network Scanner can also check for a user-defined port and report back if one is open. It can also resolve host names and auto-detect your local and external IP range. It supports remote shutdown and Wake-On-LAN.

Features:

Pings computers.

Does not require administrative privileges.

Detects hardware (MAC) addresses even across routers.

Detects hidden shared folders (normally invisible on the network) and write accessible shares.

Detects your internal and external IP addresses.

Scans for listening TCP ports and SNMP services.

Retrieves currently logged-on users.

You can mount and explore network resources.

Can launch external third party applications.

Exports results to HTML, XML, CSV and TXT

Supports Wake-On-LAN, remote shutdown and sending network messages.

Retrieves potentially any information via WMI.

It is absolutely free, requires no installation, and does not contain any adware/spyware/malware.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Canadian Spies Collect Domestic Emails in Secret Security Sweep – Canada’s electronic surveillance agency is covertly monitoring vast amounts of Canadians’ emails as part of a sweeping domestic cybersecurity operation, according to top-secret documents.

The surveillance initiative, revealed Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, is sifting through millions of emails sent to Canadian government agencies and departments, archiving details about them on a database for months or even years.

The data mining operation is carried out by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the National Security Agency. Its existence is disclosed in documents obtained by The Intercept from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The emails are vacuumed up by the Canadian agency as part of its mandate to defend against hacking attacks and malware targeting government computers. It relies on a system codenamed PONY EXPRESS to analyze the messages in a bid to detect potential cyber threats.

Last year, CSE acknowledged it collected some private communications as part of cybersecurity efforts. But it refused to divulge the number of communications being stored or to explain for how long any intercepted messages would be retained.

Now, the Snowden documents shine a light for the first time on the huge scope of the operation — exposing the controversial details the government withheld from the public.

Gemalto Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know – Gemalto, the French-Dutch digital security giant, confirmed that it believes American and British spies were behind a “particularly sophisticated intrusion” of its internal computer networks, as reported by The Intercept last week.

This morning, the company tried to downplay the significance of NSA and GCHQ efforts against its mobile phone encryption keys — and, in the process, made erroneous statements about cellphone technology and sweeping claims about its own security that experts describe as highly questionable.

Gemalto, which is the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, launched an internal investigation after The Intercept six days ago revealed that the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ hacked the company and cyberstalked its employees. In the secret documents, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the intelligence agencies described a successful effort to obtain secret encryption keys used to protect hundreds of millions of mobile devices across the globe.

The company was eager to address the claims that its systems and encryption keys had been massively compromised. At one point in stock trading after publication of the report, Gemalto suffered a half billion dollar hit to its market capitalization. The stock only partially recovered in the following days.

Citing encryption, FBI lobbying to keep phone metadata spying powers – The law that the Obama administration cites to allow bulk telephone metadata collection expires on June 1, and the FBI has already begun lobbying to keep Section 215 of the Patriot Act from expiring. Bad guys “going dark” using encryption, the FBI says, is one of the reasons why the government needs to collect the metadata of every phone call made to and from the United States.

Robert Anderson, the FBI’s chief of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch, told reporters during a roundtable discussion Tuesday that the Patriot Act is necessary because encrypted communications are becoming more commonplace in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures.

“In the last two to three years, that whole ‘going dark’ thing went from a crawl to a flat-out sprint because the technology is changing so rapidly,” Anderson said.

Joseph Demarest, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, told reporters that if Section 215 expires, “Obviously it’s going to impact what we do as an organization and certainly on cyber.”

The comments, especially as they relate to encryption, are part of a growing chorus of calls—from as high as President Barack Obama—that the government needs Silicon Valley’s assistance for backdoors into encrypted tech products like the iPhone.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 25, 2015

Chicago police are running a horrifying CIA-style black site out of a warehouse;  Arrange your iOS home screen any way you like with Makeovr;  Microsoft rolls out free Office for students, worldwide;  Microsoft kills off Google and Facebook chat for Outlook.com;  How to turn your old phone into a basic PC for cheap;  Reddit bans nude images posted without consent;  How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer;  Six awesome Android apps to get your creative juices flowing;  Monitor battery status with these five free apps;  Forge, the sketch app for brainstorming, lands on iOS;  Tips: How the iPhone 6 Plus and Android phones can do real work;  Feds say skin cancer apps are deceptive;  Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Chicago police are running a horrifying CIA-style black site out of a warehouse – A remarkable report from Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian has revealed in detail the existence of an interrogation facility used by Chicago police to detain and hold people in secret. The report describes how police have used a “nondescript warehouse” to keep detainees out of booking databases, beat prisoners, shackle them for “prolonged periods,” and keep them from legal counsel for up to 24 hours — including even children as young as 15. As The Guardian’s report demonstrates, it’s not just weapons from the war on terror that are flowing to police departments across the country: it’s tactics and attitudes, too. “I’ve never known of any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours,” retired DC homicide detective James Trainum told The Guardian. “That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist.”

Pointing up       A chilling illustration of the Boiling Frog.

Microsoft rolls out free Office for students, worldwide – In 2013, Microsoft said it would offer Microsoft Office 365 to U.S. students for free, provided their schools licensed the software for faculty and staff. Now, that offer is being extended worldwide. Microsoft said Tuesday that the offer for free Office is being extended anywhere Office is available: from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, or dozens of countries around the world. As before, the school must license Office in order for its students to be eligible.

How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer – Deep cleaning your computer of unwanted files and streamlining your folder system can not only free up storage space, but improve your computer’s performance. From decluttering tips to apps that do your organizing for you, here’s how to spruce up your computer and make sure it stays that way.

How to turn your old phone into a basic PC for cheap – Your old smartphone has a greater destiny than your junk drawer. Believe it or not, you can turn it into, say, a mini-PC or media streamer. Assuming it packs both USB On The Go support (OTG) and a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) compatible port, there’s a ton of additional functionality lurking under that its hood. Heck, you can even use a smartphone with a broken screen for this. Without further ado, here’s how to transform your old smartphone into the brains of an Android-powered PC.

Arrange your iOS home screen any way you like with Makeovr – Tired of the same, boring home screen grid layout that’s been around on iOS since its inception? You’re going to want to read this.

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The process for adding a home screen icon to your iOS device.

Monitor battery status with the help of these five free apps – Don’t get caught short with a powerless device. These apps make it easy to monitor and conserve battery life.

Reddit bans nude images posted without consent – Several months after reddit found itself at the center of a controversy involving stolen celebrity nude photos, the site has changed its policy regarding nudity. As of March 10, any photos posted without permission of those photographed will be banned. The change was announced today in a short statement signed by executives and “the reddit team,” which also mentions new hires and other changes. It alludes to reddit’s failure to act promptly when unruly users in a few subreddits continued to post links to nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and other celebrities. The statement reads:

Google Chrome Experiments launches their 1000th experiment – It’s a landmark day for Google’s Chrome Experiments as they’ve reached 1000 submissions today. Google has curated a collection of user-made games, art, and creative coding it calls Chrome Experiments. These experiments look like games, but each one uses outside-the-box design and coding to create an entirely unique user experience. Launched in 2009, it started with only a handful of games. Now Google has reached its 1000 experiments! To honor the occasion, they have created a unique way to interface with the entire collection of experiments titled Experiment #1000.

Microsoft opens up OneDrive storage for developers to integrate into apps – Microsoft is opening up its cloud storage service, OneDrive, to developers today so they can start integrating it directly into applications. A new OneDrive API will include support for Windows, iOS, Android, and the web, with the full features of OneDrive available directly within apps. “The OneDrive API is a major step toward making the platform more accessible and powerful, but this is only the beginning,” says OneDrive program manager Ryan Gregg. “We are working on a lot of other improvements and features that we will release throughout the year.”

Microsoft kills off Google and Facebook chat for Outlook.com – Microsoft is revealing today that it plans to kill off Google and Facebook chat from its Outlook.com email service “within the next couple of weeks.” In an email to Outlook.com customers, Microsoft says it’s removing Google Talk integration “due to Google’s decision to discontinue the chat protocol used by the Google Talk platform.” Microsoft will also be discontinuing support for Facebook chat in Outlook.com, but the company has not revealed why it’s killing off the social network’s chat integration.

Six awesome Android apps to get your creative juices flowing – Form virtual pottery throwing to music making, these Android apps do wonders to get you out of your mental rut and try something new. Whether it’s humming a ditty into the mic or literally sketching up a mini-masterpiece, there’s likely an app for this, that, and everything else. What follows are examples of Android apps that can help get the creative juices flowing. Spend a few minutes with these and you may unlock a side of you that you didn’t know existed.

Stardock announces Start10, a Windows 10 Start menu replacement – Stardock, the company behind the popular Start8 application, has announced Start10 that brings new Start menu customization options to Windows 10 including the ability to use a Windows 7 styled menu.

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Scout gets IFTTT channel, runs away with DIY home security crown – Home security doesn’t have to be expensive any more. In fact, you can get peace of mind for a few hundred bucks upfront, and never pay another dime. It’s one of the benefits of the ‘Internet of Things’ we keep hearing about. DIY home security is probably best realized with Scout, which lets you migrate between connected monitoring and home-grown security. Already one of the better options around, Scout just got a lot better with a new IFTTT channel.

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Forge, the sketch app for brainstorming, lands on iOS – Drawing apps for iOS are easy to come by, with Paper by FiftyThree or Adobe’s Sketch being the most notable and identifiable apps. Those ask that you use them to completion, though, and provide you with the tools necessary to finish works of art. What if you just want a sketching app, though? Those do the trick, but a new app, Forge, is made for it. Rather than creating something that looks like a painting, Forge is meant for brainstorming.

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New ‘Pebble Time’ Smartwatch Hits Kickstarter – Pebble is returning to its roots today with the Kickstarter launch of its new Pebble Time smartwatch. The next-gen wristwatch features a new color e-paper display and microphone, as well as a thinner, curved design. Like its predecessors (the Pebble and Pebble Steel), the Time syncs with Apple and Android smartphones; users will need an iPhone 4s or newer running the latest iOS, while Android owners must be updated to Android 4.0 or higher.

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How to deal with difficult SD cards that refuse to write data – SD cards can be pricey, but they also pack a lot of storage into a small form factor—if you don’t get one that refuses to work with PCs. If you do, here’s how to fix the issue.

Tips: How the iPhone 6 Plus and Android phones can do real work – Tablets do a nice job standing in for laptops at work, especially when paired with a good keyboard. What some don’t realize is the same is true for smartphones with a large display. The biggest iPhone is particularly good for occasional work tasks if you do it right. The advantage the phone has over other types of mobile devices is that the phone is always with you. This is reason enough to give some thought to using it for work, and with a little preparation it can be a full work system.

VMSave preserves your deceased loved one’s voicemail greeting – Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things in the world. A new service saves the voicemail greetings of those who’ve passed away so you can listen to them forever.

Security:

The NSA’s SIM heist could have given it the power to plant spyware on any phone – The stolen SIM keys don’t just give the NSA the power to listen in on calls, but potentially to plant spyware on any phone at any time. Once the stolen keys have bypassed the usual protections, the spyware would live on the SIM card itself, undetectable through conventional tools, able to pull data and install malicious software. If the NSA and GCHQ are pursuing that capability, it could be one of the biggest threats unearthed by Snowden so far.

Glad you’re not on the Anthem hacker hit list? Not so fast – millions more affected – US health insurer Anthem now says that the recent security breach that exposed the personal data of tens of millions of its customers also affected people who never did business with the firm. That’s because Anthem’s database included data not just for customers of Anthem-run Blue Cross Blue Shield healthcare plans, but also for customers of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans run by other companies outside of the fourteen states in which Anthem operates. Reuters reports that in addition to the 70 million Anthem customers who were affected by the breach, Anthem now estimates that between 8.8 million and 18.8 million customers of other companies’ health plans may also have had their data compromised.

FBI “close” to identifying Anthem hackers, as dozens of state-sponsored groups identified – As many as 78.8 million people may have been affected by the health insurance hack that hit the company earlier this year. That also includes up to 18.8 million customers of non-Anthem plans, the company said. It comes as the FBI confirmed Tuesday it has more than 60 different state-sponsored cyber-threat groups on its radar.

Snowden’s favourite Linux – Tails – rushes sec-fix version to market – Tails, the secure live-boot Linux made famous by Edward Snowden, has had a major revision release to Version 1.3. The new version, released after testing since February 12, combines various security fixes with new apps and simplified install, the developers say. The developers want to kill off the previous version, Tails 1.2.3, as soon as possible, with a list of 14 security issues covering everything from the Tor browser and its network security services (NSS) through to a sudo privilege escalation bug.

Kaspersky Labs Launches Online Bootcamp To Eye Security Startups – More signs that security is rising up the investment agenda: another security-focused accelerator program has launched, hoping to put a clutch of security startups through their paces — this one with backing from veteran security firm Kaspersky Labs, via its educational arm Kaspersky Academy. The incentive here is for Kaspersky to get proximity to new business ideas, and the participating VC firms to improve their security-related deal flow — given they can always step in and invest in any of the early stage businesses that catch their eye.

Feds say skin cancer apps are deceptive – The Federal Trade Commission charges several promoters of supposed melanoma-detection apps with deceptive marketing and says they must provide evidence to back up their claims.

Company News:

Google Tests Live Chat With Businesses From Search Results – Google is testing out a service that incorporates live chat with businesses right into search results, via a new link that shows whether a business is currently available, and immediately launches a chat via Google Hangouts (on either desktop or mobile) if they are. The service resembles Path Talk’s direct messaging platform with local businesses, but incorporates its service right into the business listing search result card it shows on Google.com, which also shows you details including price level, address, map location, phone number, opening hours, ratings and reviews.

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HP gives a bleak forecast as split approaches – Hewlett-Packard has lowered its financial outlook for the year after another quarter of declining sales and profit. CEO Meg Whitman is trying to get HP in shape before the company splits itself in two later this year. One half will sell PCs and printers and the other will focus on back-end business products.

Google Acquires Facebook Marketing Startup Toro – Toro, a startup that helps developers promote their apps on Facebook, just announced that it’s been acquired by Google. The announcement does not disclose the financial terms of the deal. Toro had raised $1.5 million in funding from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, SV Angel, General Catalyst, Keith Rabois, Chris Dixon, Bill Tai and Guitar Hero co-creators Charles Huang and Kai Huang. A Google spokesperson confirmed the news and said Toro will be joining the mobile ads team.

Games and Entertainment:

You got TV in my video game: Telltale, Lionsgate partner for episodic hybrid – Telltale is going a bit outside of its traditional adventure game box for its next foray into interactive storytelling. The studio behind episodic gaming hits like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Wolf Among Us has teamed up with film and TV studio Lionsgate (Orange is the New Black) to develop a “Super Show” hybrid combining a traditional TV show with episodic adventure gaming. Each episode of the Super Show will “combine one part of interactive playable content with one part of scripted television style content,” as Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner put it in an announcement interview with Entertainment Weekly. The hybrid episodes will be released together in a package that can be played/watched in either order, though the second portion you experience will be altered based on your experience with the first.

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A scene from Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us

Homeworld Remastered puts you in command of the most stunning space battles ever – Homeworld, a space-based strategy game first released in 1999, is one example of this. Whoever’s call it was to make the spaceships emit colorful light trails in their wake made a pretty amazing decision, because it helped solidify one of the most distinctive art styles in the history of gaming. Homeworld rendered space warfare as gorgeous, balletic battles, with every movement made by your fleet etching rainbow lines against a backdrop of psychedelic nebulae. At least, that’s how I remember it looking. And that’s how Homeworld Remastered Collection, a new re-release of Homeworld and Homeworld 2 that’s out tomorrow, looks. It brings the two games up to date in meticulous detail, while also including the original versions so you can see how far we’ve come. As it happens, we’ve come a long way.

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Grand Theft Auto V for PC delayed again, now expected in April – The game had originally been scheduled for PC release on January 27 – already over two months later than its launch on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – but the games developers said that they needed “a few extra weeks of testing and polish to make it as good as can be”, promising to release it on March 24. Rockstar now says that GTA V for PC will go on sale on April 14th (still 2015, we presume), both in retail stores and as a digital download. Anyone who has already pre-ordered the game will get an extra $200,000 of in-game cash for use in GTA Online.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Cybergeddon: Why the Internet could be the next “failed state” – That day is not yet nigh, but logic suggests the status quo can’t continue forever. The recent rash of major breaches of corporate networks, including the theft of personal information from the health insurer Anthem and the theft of as much as a billion dollars from over 100 banks are symptoms of a much larger trend of cybercrime and espionage. And while the issue has been once again raised to national importance by the White House, it could be argued that governments have done more to exacerbate the problem than address it. Fears of digital warfare and crime are shifting budget priorities, funding the rapid expansion of the security industry and being used as a reason for proposals for new laws and policy that could reshape the Internet.

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You Asked: How Do Driverless Cars Work? – Even though they’re barely on the road, self-driving cars have been talked about so much that they already seem like they’re last year’s model. Google has been working on one for years. Apple is allegedly, possibly, working on one, too. And there’s even speculation that everyone from Uber to Tesla could join the race, too. But before you give up the wheel, get familiar with the technology driving autonomous vehicles.

Instagram account exposes congressman who blew public funds on private flights and concerts – An Illinois congressman was found to have used taxpayer and campaign funds on private plane travel, concert tickets, and other lavish expenses after the Associated Press cross-referenced his Instagram account against his flight records. Republican representative Aaron Schock, who is already facing several ethics probes, reportedly spent more than $40,000 on private air travel from 2011 onwards, and took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry show in June last year, a $1,928 expense that he listed as a “PAC fundraising event.”

Fresh honey is on tap at these amazing beehives – Amateur apiarists, check out this sweet little creation. It’s a revolutionary new beehive system that literally puts honey on tap in your backyard. The Flow Hive offers an easier — and much gentler — way to collect honey. Put a container under the tube, turn the handle, watch the liquid gold flow. There’s no smoker required and no protective suit is necessary. It looks so safe you could probably do it in the nude if you were so inclined.

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Gerbils replace rats as historical plague spreaders – It would appear that our hatred of rats for the past several hundred years may be due to a bit of mistaken identity. Scientists this week have published a paper which suggests that it wasn’t so much rats that spread the bubonic plague across the planet, but gerbils. Your best buddy, the gerbil – the one you’ve got in a plastic tube cage sitting in your living room right now. He may have been guilty this whole time! All these hundreds of years, keeping silent for his ancestors, the real-deal spreaders of plague.

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Here’s how to make mini ‘rockets’ out of tea bags – DIY guru DaveHax is back with another one fun but pointless project. Here, he makes miniature “rockets” out of nothing more than a standard tea bag. Remember, safety first.

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The big deal about “big data”—your guide to what the heck it actually means – On the surface, “big data” sounds like it ought to have something to do with, say, storing tremendous amounts of data. Frankly it does, but that’s only part of the picture. Wikipedia has an extremely long, extremely thorough (and, overly complex) breakdown of the term, but without reading for two hours, big data as a buzzword refers to the entire process of gathering and storing tremendous amounts of data, then applying tremendous amounts of computing power and advanced algorithms to the data in order to pick out trends and connect dots that would otherwise be invisible and un-connectable within the mass

Something to think about:

“The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.”

–      Oscar Wilde

Today’s Free Downloads:

Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox – Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox is a collection of powerful tools to help both the technician and home users. Portable version also available.

Many of the tools have been built with making certain repair, cleanup and tasks easier, faster and better.

More and more tools will be added to the program over time. Many of the tools have so many options, control and features that they could have been full programs on their own. But the goal was to have everything in one spot.

Here are just some of the tools in the program. Also note that the program has full Unicode support!

Quick Tools (Windows Built-in Tools)

Take A Screen Shot

Check Disk (chkdsk) At Next Boot

Run As System Account

Netstat

Network Information

Static IPv4

TCP & UDP Stats

IP Subnet Calculator

IP Address Scanner

Manage Windows Users

Manage Users

Create New Windows User

User Account Properties

Manage Groups

Create New Windows Group

Group Properties

Bulk Manage Users Tool

Delete, Move Or Rename Locked Files At Bootup

Svchost.exe Lookup

Process Information

Windows Services

Windows Services Safe Mode

Windows Shutdown Timer

CPU Monitor

Drives Monitor

Memory Monitor

Network Monitor

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Tails – Tails is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly.

It is a complete operating system designed to be used from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card independently of the computer’s original operating system. It is Free Software and based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc.

It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to:

use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship;

all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network;

leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly;

use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

 

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Report: Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Police Operating Domestic Black Site – Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Police Department is operating a CIA-style black site on the city’s West Side, according to an explosive new report from The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman. The facility, an otherwise plain warehouse known as Homan Square, also houses military-style vehicles, according to Ackerman.

The Guardian reports that the CPD detains mostly poor, black and brown people at Homan. Once at the site, detainees are allegedly beaten by police, shackled for hours and denied access to counsel. There is no booking at Homan Square, so details about who has been detained at the facility are scarce. “Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are,” Ackerman wrote. “Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts.”

One detainee, 44-year-old John Hubbard, died in an interview room at Homan. There are no official records — or a coroner’s report — concerning Hubbard’s official cause of death, or why he was detained in the first place.

European Lawmakers Demand Answers on Phone Key Theft – European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday.

The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys.

The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.”

“Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal.

Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”

Former FBI Director Defends Metadata Collection – The current practices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court are effective and don’t need to be changed, according to former FBI director Robert Mueller.

“Yes, it’s worthwhile. Metadata of telephone companies is terribly helpful,” Mueller said, speaking Tuesday morning at an American Bar Association breakfast held at the the University Club in Washington, D.C.

Mueller cited the example of the Boston Marathon bombing as evidence that bulk collection is important, saying that analysis of metadata was able to rule out potential associates of the Tsarnaev brothers. “They had additional IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices],” Mueller said, adding that bulk collection helped prevent a second attack.

Metadata collection, he said, “is tremendously helpful in identifying contacts.”

The FISA court’s bulk metadata collection program has come under intense scrutiny in light of disclosures made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Congress now has until the end of May to decide whether to reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the bulk collection program.

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