Tag Archives: Google Chromecast

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 29, 2015

Do You Know What Your Apps Are Up To?  10 Must-Have iPhone Apps;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies (this week);  How to convert music and videos with VLC ;  AV-Comparatives Names Product of the Year for 2014;  Mozilla dusts off old servers, lights up Tor relays;  Windows 10: You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers;  Rolling Stone opens its archives on Google Play;  Spies Know What You’re Downloading on File-Sharing Sites, New Snowden Docs Show;  Hopper’s New Travel App Tells You The Best Time To Fly;  Build your own home media center: Get started with Kodi;  Want to spy on your wife? Change your grades? Hire a hacker!  Bill Gates: I feel stupid for only speaking English;  What I’ll Do With My Parents’ Facebook After They Die;  Simple System Tweaker (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Hey, User! Do You Know What Your Apps Are Up To? – Suspending privacy concerns has become the tacit ‘payment’ exacted from consumers for accessing a ‘free’ service. Which of course means the service is not actually free. But that doesn’t mean people don’t care about privacy, more that they are being encouraged to trade it — to think of privacy as a currency which buys them digital access. To engage in a transaction. To illustrate both the transactional nature of privacy and how left in the dark consumers can be about the exact app permissions they are agreeing to when they tap ‘I agree’, the makers of encrypted communications software and hardware, Silent Circle and Blackphone, have put together the below video — which attempts to shed light on how extensive and unacceptable some app permissions can be.


10 Must-Have iPhone Apps – Look at any list of the best iPhone apps, and you could be there a while. Even if you narrow down your search to just the best free iPhone apps, there are still a lot of recommendations to consider. This list of ten must-have iPhone apps is for busy people who want to cut to the chase. These ten apps are the most essential ones that I think everyone should download.

The 10 Most-Pirated Movies (this week) – Three new flicks made it onto the most-pirated movies list this week—American Heist, Taken 3, and John Wick—and they feature Adrien Brody, Liam Neeson, and Keanu Reeves, respectively. If you want to learn more about those three movies, as well as the other movies that were popular among pirates, click through the slideshow linked both above and below.

How to convert music and videos with VLC – Getting software to convert music and videos for free is easy, but usually comes with some drawbacks. When you try to install the freeware, several other applications may try to sneak in by disguising themselves as tools for your computer. Also, you may end up with a converter that displays ads all over the interface. If you’re already using VLC on your desktop, you’ll be pleased to know that not only does it play pretty much all audio and video formats, it can convert them too. Here’s how to convert between formats in VLC:


Media menu in VLC. Nicole Cozma/CNET

Mozilla dusts off old servers, lights up Tor relays – Mozilla has given the Tor network a capacity kick with the launch of 14 relays that will help distribute user traffic. Engineers working under the Foundation’s Polaris Project inked in November pulled Mozilla’s spare and decommissioned hardware out of the cupboard for dedicated use in the Tor network. It included a pair of Juniper EX4200 switches and three HP SL170zG6 (48GB ram, 2*Xeon L5640, 2*1Gbps NIC) servers, along with a dedicated existing IP transit provider (2 X 10Gbps). French Mozilla engineer Arzhel Younsi (@xionoxfr) said its network was designed to fall no lower than half of its network capacity in the event of maintenance or failure.

People Looked at a Lot of Porn During the Northeast’s Short-Lived Snowmageddon – To the surprise of no one, Pornhub’s traffic spiked as snowbound Northeasterners spent Tuesday getting frisky with themselves.


AV-Comparatives Names Product of the Year for 2014 – 2014’s product of the year is Bitdefender Internet Security 2015. That’s not to say Bitdefender totally outperformed all of the other products tested by AV-Comparatives. In fact, there was a tie for the top spot, as Kaspersky Internet Security (2015) scored just as well as Bitdefender. In a case like that, the honor goes to whichever product had not won before, or, as in this case, the product that hadn’t won as recently. With Kaspersky, AVG, Avira, Emsisoft, F-secure, and Fortinet also made the cut-off for top rated products.

Pointing up   “the honor goes to whichever product had not won before, or, as in this case, the product that hadn’t won as recently.” LOL!

Time to admit, your “tests” serve no practical purpose.

Microsoft previews free, updated Power BI business intelligence tool – Aiming at a mass business-user audience, Microsoft has released a preview of the next version of its cloud-based data visualization software, Power BI, with a promise to maintain a free option even after its general release. Starting Tuesday, businesses can sign up at PowerBI.com to test it (the first version premiered last February). A free version of the software is available immediately from the Apple App Store for the iPad. Power BI will also be available for free later this year for the iPhone, Android, and Windows 10.


A new edition of the company’s data visualization tool is now freely downloadable

Drone maker to add no-fly firmware to prevent future White House buzzing – The company that manufactured the drone used in the ill-fated flight has announced that it will issue a mandatory upgrade to the firmware for its Phantom 2 line of products to make sure that customers comply with the FAA’s no-fly zone around DC.DJI’s Phantom 2 drones already have firmware settings that prevent them from being flown near airports and other places where officials have set restrictions on flight. According to the company’s statement, DJI is also continuing to update the no-fly zone list for future firmware releases to prevent flights in other sensitive areas—and to prevent drones from being flown across national borders.


The ill-fated DJI Phantom 2 drone flown by a drunken intelligence agency employee into a tree on the White House grounds has kicked up more than a few wood chips.

OneDrive updates make Microsoft’s cloud storage system better for photos – Over the next few weeks, the company says it’s introducing changes that will automatically import photos from external devices, allow users to categorize them in new albums with clear thumbmail images, and use an updated search function to find specific files and photos saved on the service. OneDrive users were already able to upload smartphone pictures straight to OneDrive using Microsoft’s iOS, Android, and Windows Phone apps, but the updates mean that you’ll be able to transfer files to the cloud service from cameras, USB sticks, and external hard drives linked to your computer.

Windows 10: You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers – On January 21, in a two-hour-plus event at its Redmond headquarters, Microsoft unveiled features that will be appearing in Windows 10 “over the next three, four, five months.” Two days later, the company released a new Windows 10 Technical Preview version, build 9926, for anyone who signed up with the Windows Insider program. If you’re eager to get started with the new build, read my hands-on installation guide first. In this post I cover what’s in Windows 10 and what you can expect through the remainder of 2015.

Hidden tweaks that will make Windows 10 even better – You’ve already seen some of the changes Microsoft is making in Windows 10, but there’s even more in the January preview than what you see by default. All you need to know is where to go to unlock the extra goodies.

VexBox disciplines teens with slow internet – The device we’re looking at today is a box that hooks up to your home internet network to slow it down. Madness, you say? This device is made for parents of teenagers. Parents who, apparently, do not allow their children to own smartphones. This box controls the internet speed of your router, slowing it down to the same speed you’d have had if you clocked in at the birth of widespread internet – 56k and dial-up. Instead of turning the web connection throughout your house off entirely, this device just cuts your internet speed down to a crawl. If this KickStarter is funded, the VexBox will retail for a cool $79 USD. Just eighty dollars to slow your internet down to a crawl to infuriate your child to such a level that they … do their homework.


Watch the first super slow GoPro footage recorded at 240 frames per second – GoPro has a huge lead over its competition these days — we found out just how big when we pitted the best action cameras against each other last fall. Now, a new firmware update is about to widen the gap even further. Set to release in February, the update will add the ability to record 720p footage at 240 frames per second — 10 times slower than the standard framerate — to the Hero 4 Black, GoPro’s 4K action camera. Gizmodo got an early version of the update and shot some footage with it at and around the X-Games last weekend. The results are a mixed bag.


Amazon is taking on Microsoft Exchange with its own enterprise email service – WorkMail data is deeply encrypted with private keys, and the company is letting enterprise clients pick a geographic region where their emails will be stored. That could help employees access messages faster, but more importantly means that privacy-minded businesses can pick a region with favorable laws designed to keep prying eyes away from their data. WorkMail will cost $4 per inbox, a rate that’s largely in line with what Microsoft and Google charge for their enterprise offerings. It’ll launch in the second quarter of this year, so Amazon still has time to show businesses exactly how WorkMail can surpass Exchange.

Rolling Stone opens its archives on Google Play Newsstand – Rolling Stone is opening up its archives, making select stories from its nearly 50 years of publication free for anyone to read. The stories will all be available through Google Play Newsstand, making this a big grab for Google that should help to promote the app’s sales of digital magazines and use as a news reader. Fast Company reports that three to four big stories from each issue will show up in the open archives, which Rolling Stone reportedly plans to augment with sound and video content next year. Every issue will have a presence in the archives, and all cover stories will be available. Newsstand is available on both iOS and Android, so a wide audience should be able to access these stories.


Hopper’s New Travel App Tells You The Best Time To Fly – A mobile application called Hopper, out today on iTunes, is using data and analysis from “billions” of flight prices in order to tell travelers when they should fly and buy tickets. The company claims that it’s able to save users as much as 40 percent on flights, and in 95 percent of cases will get you a cheaper flight or one that’s at least the same price as you would have otherwise found elsewhere. By monitoring trip prices 24/7 and further in advance, Hopper says your chances of scoring a deal increase.


Build your own home media center: Get started with Kodi – Want to build one PC to rule all your living room media needs? Meet Kodi! In part one of this series we show you how to set up the media player software formerly known as XBMC.

FCC warns against Wi-Fi hotspot blocking and hints at further crackdowns – After shutting down Marriott’s attempt to block personal hotspot use, the FCC says it’s looking into more violations elsewhere.


Want to spy on your wife? Change your grades? Hire a hacker! – Since being profiled in The New York Times two weeks ago, Hacker’s List has buckled under a deluge of traffic and still goes up and down on a regular basis. If Hacker’s List job postings are any indication, people largely want to hack the social media or e-mail accounts of lovers and ex-lovers, remove negative personal and professional feedback posts from the ‘Net, and alter the databases that guide so much of our lives—including grades, DMV records, and even hotel rewards programs. What follows is a curated selection of Hacker’s List job postings from the last several weeks, along with the amounts of money on offer.


Stop using your birthday, start using one of these password manager apps – Sure, you could go without a password manager—if you want to try to remember all of your super-secure passwords and login credentials on your own, or if you live dangerously and use the same password for all of your accounts. But let’s get real: There’s no reason to do that, not when there are so many excellent password managers out there that can store passwords securely for you, and generate them, too.

Silk Road paid thousands in shake-downs from malicious hackers – When operating outside of the law, you can’t rely on the police to protect your illegal enterprise from other criminals. The Silk Road marketplace founders likely learned this lesson in 2012 and 2013, after paying thousands of dollars to cyber extortionists who threatened to expose serious site vulnerabilities or hit it with denial of service attacks, according to evidence presented in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday. On at least two separate occasions, Silk Road operators paid malicious attackers ransoms in exchange for keeping the site up and secure.

One Step Ahead: Pedophiles on the Deep Web – Criminals are always one step ahead. While the public can enjoy anonymity tools or hard-drive encryption for privacy and security, people with more nefarious motivations are going to use these technologies to stay undetected, make money, or improve the efficiency of existing criminal enterprises. Nowhere is this more apparent than with pedophiles. Getting an introduction to the tools these people use to cover their tracks is easy enough. On the uncensored version of The Hidden Wiki, a site that maintains a regularly updated list of what’s available on the deep web, is a selection of guides for pedophiles who want to browse, download, or share material.


Linux C library exploit affects all systems dating back 2000 – Sometimes, the price of popularity is more scrutiny. As the Linux operating system, and open source in general, gets more and more coverage in mainstream media and news, a lot of security holes, and big ones at that, are being exposed, or at the very least sensationalized. After the “Shellshock” bug last September, which was reported to be even worse than the “Heartbleed” bug of the open source OpenSSL vulnerability, comes a “GHOST” security exploit that affects almost all Linux systems that date all the way back to 2000.

The Ghost security hole perfectly illustrates the efficiency of open source – A new security hole has been found (and patched) on Linux systems. Jack Wallen uses this example as yet more proof the open-source community exemplifies how patching should be done.

Spies Know What You’re Downloading on File-Sharing Sites, New Snowden Docs Show – The program, code named LEVITATION, is based on newly released documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. It was created by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to identify and locate users around the world who access files such as “Jihadist propaganda” or bomb-making guides on file sharing websites such as Rapidshare and the now-defunct Megaupload. According to the documents, CSE analysts “see about 10-15 million” uploads and downloads each day, but only “350 interesting download events per month,” which amounts to less than 0.0001 percent of all events.

Use Siri to find a lost iPhone’s owner – This works even if a found phone is locked. But there’s something you should know about this feature.

Company News:

Facebook’s Powerful Ad Tools Grew Its Revenue 25X Faster Than User Count – Facebook’s been a quest to improve its ad measurement, and it’s definitely paying off. In Q4 2014, Facebook’s user count in the US & Canada only grew by a tiny 0.97% from 204 million to 206 million, but the average ad revenue it earns from each of those users grew 24% from $6.64 to $8.26. That’s insane. Jawdropping.


Samsung’s profits continue to slip – Samsung Electronics made an operating profit of 5.29 trillion won ($4.87 billion) off the back of 52.73 trillion won ($48.6 billion) in revenue last quarter. These are big numbers by almost anyone’s standards, but the problem is that they don’t meet the company’s own; last year operating profit was 8.31 trillion won from 59.28 trillion won revenue, meaning that these latest results reveal respective dips of 36 and 11 percent. Although Samsung points to increased sales of the Galaxy Note 4 as a bright spot, its mobile division is still down 64 percent year-on-year in terms of operating profit, leaving others like the processor and RAM businesses to pick up some slack.

Apple Shipped As Many Smartphones As Samsung In Q4 2014, According To Analysts – It looks like making larger screen smartphones was a good decision from Apple. Fresh off a monster earnings report — including the largest profit of any corporate company in history — Apple sold as many phones as Samsung in the final quarter of 2014.

LG’s Annual Profit Doubles To $475M After Shipping 59.1M Smartphones In 2014 – Samsung may be stumbling after posting its lowest annual profit for three years, but the same can’t be said for fellow Korean company LG, which just revealed that it shipped 59.1 million smartphones last year, a 24 percent increase on its figure from 2013.

Qualcomm admits “large customer” loss amid Samsung speculation – They’re not naming names, but we can pretty much read between the lines. In its Q1 2015 fiscal report, chip maker Qualcomm is lowering its revenue outlook for the second half of this fiscal year due to a number of huge factors. Aside from a shift in share among OEMs and higthened competition in China, where is actually facing some legal battles, Qualcomm also mentions the loss of a “large customer” of its Snapdragon 810. Given how things are going, it’s hard not to believe that it is referring to Samsung.

Games and Entertainment:

5 fun multiplayer games for your Google Chromecast – Swing through the official Chromecast website and you’ll find a growing library of single- and multi-player games. Some come from larger brands, while others are from independent developers looking for exposure. I’ve gathered up five of my favorite Android — and iOS! — games that come with Chromecast compatibility or enhancement. The next time you’ve got friends over and want to liven the mood, break out one of these. You might be surprised at how interactive that media device can be.

Hit mobile game Badland is headed to consoles – After launching on iOS to much acclaim in 2013, the dark and wonderful Badland has since made its way to all the major mobile platforms — you can even pick it up for your BlackBerry. No specific release date has been announced — you can expect to see the game on consoles this spring — but it’s coming to a huge range of platforms. That includes the PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, and Wii U, along with Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam. At first glance, it might not seem like the most natural fit: one of Badland’s defining characteristics is that it’s designed to work perfectly with a touchscreen.


Unreal Engine 4 Paris virtual tour: indistinguishable from reality – A virtual Parisian apartment has been rendered in video form for your enjoyment this week. Not by an architecture firm, nor a home furnishings group, but by a video game developer by the name of Dereau Benoît. This short journey through a virtual space was made real with Unreal Engine 4, the latest from Epic Games in graphics engine delivery. Everything you’re seeing here – modeling, texturing, lighting, and post-production – have been created with Unreal Engine by Benoît. The music you’re hearing comes from Sigur Rós.


The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of LucasArts’ Adventure Classics – With Grim Fandango remastered for 2015, The Secret of Monkey Island turning 25, and Full Throttle 20 this year, here’s an overview of the company that made these adventure classics happen.


Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge

10 multipayer Android games where you share the same phone – These aren’t tired pass-and-play games. These are games where you and a friend swipe and tap your phone at the same time.



PlayStation to dump Music Unlimited app in favor of Spotify – On Wednesday, Sony announced a shake-up to its PlayStation-branded music-streaming service, complete with a new app, a switch to Spotify as a content provider, and an indefinite disconnection for PlayStation Vita owners. As a result, the old Music Unlimited app will be retired on March 29. No release date for the new app was listed, but we can assume it will launch some time after February 28, as current Music Unlimited users will receive “up to 30 days” of free PlayStation Music access during that span.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Bill Gates: I feel stupid for only speaking English – Technically Incorrect: The Microsoft co-founder admires Mark Zuckerberg’s grasp of Chinese and laments his own linguistic inabilities.

GoDaddy yanks Super Bowl ad over puppy mill faux-pas – Animal rights activists quickly set up a Change.org petition in response to GoDaddy’s puppy ad, which they said endorsed puppy mills. Selling a puppy via a website to an owner that hasn’t been vetted? That can be a one-way ticket to a dog fighting ring, they claimed. With more than 42,000 signatures gathered in less than 24 hours, GoDaddy decided to pull the ad. They even yanked it from YouTube, but someone else predictably put it right back up:


What I’ll Do With My Parents’ Facebook After They Die – My mother and father have long made it clear what their wishes are for when their times come—except for when it comes to their online footprints.


This skull may provide a new link between Neanderthals and modern humans – This accidental find may upend what’s known as the assimilation model, or partial replacement model. According to this model, modern humans originated from Africa but then evolved through interbreeding with European Neanderthals. It’s estimated that human DNA today has between 2 and 4 percent Neanderthal genes, so it’s not a question of if interbreeding occurred, but when and where. The Manot skull shares some physical characteristics with Neanderthals and could suggest this interbreeding happened in the Levantine corridor instead of Europe. Without genetic testing, however, the morphological comparisons are just speculative.


Clara Amit / Israel Antiquities Authority

Temporary tattoos measure sugar levels without drawing blood – Diabetics need to closely monitor their blood sugar levels. However, this crucial routine becomes more than a chore since it usually involved drawing blood. That is why researchers are continually searching for non-invasive, not to mention not painful, ways to measure glucose levels. Researchers from the University of California San Diego are looking into using temporary tattoos to perform this function without even breaking the user’s skin, paving the way for other medical use cases as well, like delivering medicine through the skin as well.


Something to think about:

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

–       Dorothy Parker

Today’s Free Downloads:

AquaSnap – AquaSnap is a free software that greatly enhances the way you can arrange windows on your Desktop. It gives you the possibility to move and resize windows exactly the way you want, without losing a pixel, with simple gestures which makes you more productive.

AquaSnap is a great replacement for the Aero Snap and Aero Shake features of Windows 7 and is compatible with every Windows versions and consumes very little memory and CPU.


SyMenu – SyMenu allows you to manage portable applications resident on a removable drive. SyMenu can be installed in pen drives, external USB disks, memory cards and even CDs and DVDs.

Moreover SyMenu can automatically link any application residing on host pc. Any linked item (SyItem) can be organized in a hierarchical structure with colorful folders and found with the internal search tool.

You can customize SyMenu, adding links to portable programs, documents, Windows commands, folders and urls. Linked items can reside on the same USB device or even on host since SyMenu supports absolute path (such as C:\Windows\Explorer.exe).


Start Search bar: (Windows Vista like) allows to quickly search amongst any SyItem configured on menu;

Windows Start Menu wrapper: SyMenu exposes through Start Search bar every program linked in host PC Windows Start menu too;

Extension Manager: allows to temporarly replace normal Windows extension associations with SyMenu custom extension association;

Autoexec: allows to launch a custom list of SyItems at SyMenu startup or closing.

Execution modes: Run, RunAs, Open folder and Show Properties.

Batch Import: allows to make massive imports of new SyItems.


Tweaking.com – Simple System Tweaker – Tweaking.com – Simple System Tweaker is designed to bring only the safest tweaks to your system to increase speed and stability.

Windows is setup in a default configuration. By fine tuning your Windows configuration you can increase the speed and snappiness of the operating system. These tweaks are the ones that are safe and shown to cause no side effects with any programs. Each tweak only gives a small performance boost. But they all add up, so the more tweaks you do the more performance you get.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Regin super-malware has Five Eyes fingerprints all over it says Kaspersky – The Regin malware, often described as the devil spawn of Stuxnet and Duqu, is the handiwork of the Five Eyes nation state spy apparatus, analysis reveals.

The malware was named in November by researchers impressed with the smarts that helped it hide in plain sight for up to six years.

Analysis overnight by Kaspersky malware reversers Costin Raiu and Igor Soumenkov found a Regin plugin – a keylogger called QWERTY – used source code known to be the product of a Five Eyes intelligence alliance member nation.

“We’ve obtained a copy of the malicious (QWERTY) files published by Der Spiegel and when we analysed them, they immediately reminded us of Regin,” the duo said.

“Looking at the code closely, we conclude that the “QWERTY” malware is identical in functionality to the Regin 50251 plugin.

“Considering the extreme complexity of the Regin platform and little chance that it can be duplicated by somebody without having access to its source codes, we conclude the QWERTY malware developers and the Regin developers are the same or working together.”

Canada Casts Global Surveillance Dragnet Over File Downloads – Canada’s leading surveillance agency is monitoring millions of Internet users’ file downloads in a dragnet search to identify extremists, according to top-secret documents.

The covert operation, revealed Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, taps into Internet cables and analyzes records of up to 15 million downloads daily from popular websites commonly used to share videos, photographs, music, and other files.

The revelations about the spying initiative, codenamed LEVITATION, are the first from the trove of files provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden to show that the Canadian government has launched its own globe-spanning Internet mass surveillance system.

According to the documents, the LEVITATION program can monitor downloads in several countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. It is led by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the NSA. (The Canadian agency was formerly known as “CSEC” until a recent name change.)

The latest disclosure sheds light on Canada’s broad existing surveillance capabilities at a time when the country’s government is pushing for a further expansion of security powers following attacks in Ottawa and Quebec last year.


Australia: Top cop’s claims cast shadow over data-retention plan – A parliamentary submission by NSW Police deputy commissioner Naguib “Nick” Kaldas claims that an internal affairs unit of the state’s police force had inappropriately obtained warrants to electronically bug not only him, but also other police officers and members of the public.

The claim comes as Australian lawmakers debate proposed new legislation enforcing two-year mandatory metadata retention by the nation’s telcos for warrantless access to individuals’ information by law-enforcement agencies.

The submission (PDF) by Kaldas, dated January 19, was published on Thursday by the parliamentary inquiry into the conduct and progress of the Ombudsman’s Operation Prospect.

How to Leak to The Intercept – People often tell reporters things their employers, or their government, want to keep suppressed. But leaking can serve the public interest, fueling revelatory and important journalism.

This publication was created in part as a platform for journalism arising from unauthorized disclosures by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Our founders and editors are strongly committed to publishing stories based on leaked material when that material is newsworthy and serves the public interest. So ever since The Intercept launched, our staff has tried to put the best technology in place to protect our sources.

Our website has been protected with HTTPS encryption from the beginning. All of our journalists publish their PGP keys on their staff profiles so that readers can send them encrypted email. And we’ve been running a SecureDrop server, an open source whistleblower submission system, to make it simpler and more secure for anonymous sources to get in touch with us.


Gag order prevented Google from disclosing WikiLeaks probe for 3 years – A month ago, Google said it does not publicly address individual cases when it comes to government requests for customer data “to help protect all our users.”

But on Wednesday, Google changed course after being ripped for failing to notify WikiLeaks that three years ago, Google handed over data to federal authorities about three staffers of the secret-spilling site as part of the government’s espionage probe of the site and its founder, Julian Assange. The reason for the three-year delay, Google said, was because it had been under a gag order that it was fighting.

“From January 2011 to the present, Google has continued to fight to lift the gag orders on any legal process it has received on WikiLeaks,” Al Gidari, a Google lawyer told The Washington Post. He said the media giant’s policy is to always challenge indefinite gag orders. The gags on these were partly lifted, he said.

Vodafone unwraps anti-snooping app for businesses – Vodafone has launched a secure messaging app for privacy-minded companies.

The app, available to Vodafone’s enterprise customers in Germany, is being touted as a way to prevent industrial espionage and snooping on corporate calls.

Vodafone will provide end-to-end encryption for calls made over the VoIP-based app, called Vodafone Secure Call. The app will work for both wi-fi and mobile calls carried over Edge, UMTS, or LTE networks, and will work both in Germany and abroad.

The app, which uses AES 128-bit encryption, is available for iOS and Android phones for a monthly fee of €14.95 per user. While Vodafone said last year that a Windows Phone app was also under development, for now Secure Call is only available for the two main smartphone platforms.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 9, 2014

40 Reasons Why You DON’T Need An Antivirus;   How and why to set up and use a password manager;  11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search;  Report: Android Security Apps Improving;  Translate text into a different language as you type;  Why you should take another look at Google Keep;  Google offers $20 Play Store credit with Chromecast;  Beware this online shopping scam: Fake order confirmations;  Fedora 21: Worth the wait;  Hackers tell Sony to halt the release of The Interview;  Your Christmas Gaming Guide [Updated];  How to make the most money from old gadgets;  Corporate Abuse of Our Data;  Amazon Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast: Why not both?  Samsung SSD Magician.

How and why to set up and use a password manager – A password manager stores the passwords for your various online accounts and profiles and saves you from having to remember and enter each one each time you visit a password-protected site. Instead, your passwords are encrypted and held by your password manager, which you then protect with a master password. With a password manager, you can create strong passwords for all of your accounts and keep all of those passwords saved behind a stronger master password, leaving you to remember but a single password. Which password manager you choose to use is less important than actually choosing one and then using it.

11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search – Google Search’s learning curve is an odd one. You use it every day, but still all you know is how to search. But the search engine has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. Here’s an overview of some of the most useful Google search tricks, from basic tips to new features just recently released.

Report: Android Security Apps Improving – The latest Android antivirus report from AV-Test comes with good news; almost half of the products earned a perfect score. While there aren’t nearly as many malicious applications aimed at Android devices as there are targeting Windows, that’s no reason to be complacent. If one of those malware apps hits your phone, you’ve got trouble whether it’s common or not. AV-Test Institute rated 31 Android security applications and found that for the most part they’re even more effective than when last tested.

Tablets growing at a faster rate than that of any other connected device, claims NPD –  Tablet ownership among US consumers is on the rise, and growing at a faster rate than that of any other connected device, claims The NPD Group Connected Intelligence, Connected Home Report. The report gives us a general idea of what people are doing with their tablet. For example, 55 percent of tablet users report leveraging a video feature of their device, which means that they used it for video calling or taking, posting, and uploading videos, as well as watching video from a streaming service or app from a TV channel or pay TV provider. Video usage is even more prolific among younger consumers, with 67 percent of tablet users aged 18-34 use these video features compared to 53 percent of 35-54 year olds, and 45 percent of users age 55 and older.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft discounts its subscription services bundle to just $149 – Microsoft only announced its special “Work & Play Bundle” of subscription services last month, but the company is already discounting it in time for the holidays. The Work & Play Bundle, which includes Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Music Pass, and Skype Unlimited World subscriptions, is now just $149 for the year. Separately, the subscriptions would cost around $450 annually, so It’s more than 65 percent in savings for services that provide access to the full Office suite, unlimited OneDrive storage, Xbox Live gaming, music streaming without ads, and unlimited Skype calls.

Google Translate to decipher words in images, better recognize speech, says report – International travel could get much easier if all you have to do is point your phone at a menu, or speak into it for an instant translation. That’s the magic promised in a leaked build of Google Translate that’s apparently in the works. The new version of Google’s translation app adds features courtesy of Google’s acquisition of Word Lens, which already has much of this functionality in place. You can grab the app now to get an idea of what the new image translation in Google Translate will be like.

Translate text into a different language as you type – There are some amazing language-translation apps, everything from Google Translate to Word Lens. But few of them integrate with iOS proper. Translate Keyboard Pro ($1.99) does. It takes advantage of iOS 8’s support for third-party keyboards, effectively translating text from 30 source languages into as many as 80 other languages as you type. But using it can be a little confusing at first. Here’s how to get started:


Google offers $20 Play Store credit with Chromecast – Google wants the Chromecast to be your one and only streaming stick this holiday season. The company recently launched yet another limited time offer to sweeten the deal for prospective Chromecast buyers. From now until December 21, anyone who picks up a Chromecast from Google Play or participating retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy will get a $20 credit for Google Play Movies. That’s on top of the two other deals you can get if you buy your Chromecast from Google Play: two free months of free Hulu Plus and three months free of Google Play Music All Access.

Amazon Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast: Why not both? – The comparison is certainly inviting. Both streaming media devices fit in the palm of your hand and plug directly into your TV’s HDMI socket. The pricing is nearly the same as well, at $39 for the Fire TV Stick and $35 for Chromecast. But beyond those skin-deep similarities, Chromecast and the Fire TV Stick couldn’t be more different. You could choose one or the other, but owning both isn’t a crazy idea.

Kakao Talk adds encrypted ‘secret chat’ feature amid privacy worries – Chatting on Kakao Talk will become more secure with a new hidden chat feature that has end-to-end encryption for all messages. Secret Chat is a chat room that requires messages to be read with a decryption key stored in a user’s mobile device, Daum Kakao, the South Korea-based operator of the service, said in a release. That means the messages cannot be intercepted by outsiders, even if they’re going through servers, it said.

Why you should take another look at Google Keep, the best free organizational tool on Android – Google has been plugging away at strengthening its capabilities, making it a real contender for your home screen in a crowded field of productivity apps. It’s great not only for taking notes, but also saving articles and images, sharing lists, and setting reminders. It doesn’t have the same litany of features as software like Evernote, but that’s partly the point: There is great power in its simplicity.

Facebook Brings Graph Search To Mobile And Lets You Find Feed Posts By Keyword – Facebook is finally getting serious about search. Today it’s challenging Google for finding answers and Twitter for checking real-time chatter with the launch of keyword search. Two years after debuting semantic “My friends who…” search for people, places, and photos on the web, Graph Search is rolling out on iOS in the US along with a new keyword search option for dredging up old News Feed posts by friends.


YouTube shows video creators what copyright restrictions their audio will face – With the new feature in Audio Library, video creators can see whether an audio track will affect playability in certain markets (YouTube will prevent videos containing copyright for certain tracks from being played in, say, Europe or Canada). Creators can also discover whether a track can be monetized (that is, whether a copyright holder will let a video creator use the copyrighted audio in exchange for a cut of the profit from pre-roll ads that run before the video).


Google’s Android Studio now available, ready for your app creations – Android now has an official IDE. Android Studio has come out of beta today, and provides the first true cross-platform IDE for Developers who can’t get enough Javascript. Announced way back at Google I/O 2013, Android Studio is the first official IDE from Google, and could end up serving as a watershed moment in Android development history. It’s also likely to get some add-ons in the near future, which could make it much easier to work with for novices and experienced developers alike. With Android Studio, Google has done the hard work of making sure you can develop for any one of their Android platforms. Android Wear, Android Auto, Android Tv, and Google Glass are all included. Oh, yeah, regular Android, too.


Windows 10: Microsoft plans to let users upgrade from Preview to RTM builds – The full launch of Windows 10 is still around 6-9 months away, but some users are already looking ahead to what the launch will mean for them. In particular, some have been wondering whether or not those enrolled in the company’s Windows Insider program – which gives them access to pre-release builds of the new OS – will be able to simply upgrade to the full and final version when it’s released. There’s good news on that front – although it does come with one important caveat.

Fedora 21: Worth the wait – After a full year of development, Fedora 21 is due for release on 9 December. I have installed Release Candidate 5 (RC5), which was declared ready for release and so should be the final released version. I actually have two consecutive posts lined up for this release: first, this one which will cover the five different desktops on five different laptops; and then a second one which will focus on Anaconda, the Fedora installer, which has been improved again, and is better than ever with this release.


Fedora 21 Workstation (Gnome 3)

With Comcast’s Ethernet @Home, your holiday break could be even more like work – Want to work from home? Great. On your corporate network? So that your employer can monitor you 24/7? Comcast can help.

10 things end business users should ask when making tech purchases – More and more business users are taking on the role of IT decision maker — but they may not know what they should ask vendors. If you find yourself in this boat, keep these 10 critical issues in mind..

Seagate offers low-cost 8TB hard drives – Got a lot of data? Finding your PC a little cramped when it comes to free space? Would a Seagate 8TB hard drive help? Sold by Seagate under the “Archive Label” brand and aimed at those looking for a cost-effective storage solution, the drive retails for around $270, which is far more palatable than the $1,000 or so that 8TB drive from HGST are currently going for. That works out at around $0.033 per gigabyte.

Samsung SSD 850 Evo brings 3D V-NAND tech to consumer drives – Long promised, the day when 3D V-NAND would reach consumer SSDs has finally arrived with the launch of Samsung’s SSD 850 Evo family. The new technology promises enhanced endurance and lower costs, the latter of which is borne out by the competitive price of the new drives. While not dirt cheap, the 850 Evo’s starting price of $100 for a 120GB version is certainly not much more than traditional SSDs. Also in the series are 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB flavors for $150, $270, and $500, respectively.


40 Reasons Why You DON’T Need An Antivirus – There is no way around it: viruses do exist, trojans do infiltrate your PC, and most users will act to guard against them. With software, but also with sensible behavior online. Malware relies partly on users doing the hard work for them. Most of the time you know when you are straying into the murkier waters of the internet. Do you ever think that your good behavior is enough to protect you from attacks, and that antivirus software is not necessary? You may be right. Here are 40 reasons why you don’t need an antivirus.

Beware this online shopping scam: Fake order confirmations – Brian Krebs, a respected authority on security and all-things-cybercrime, wrote a cautionary post earlier this week. “If you receive an email this holiday season asking you to ‘confirm’ an online e-commerce order or package shipment, please resist the urge to click the included link or attachment: Malware purveyors and spammers are blasting these missives by the millions each day in a bid to trick people into giving up control over their computers and identities.” If you do receive a message about a problem with an order or shipment, don’t click any links or open any files. If it appears legitimate, open a new browser window and visit the vendor’s website yourself to check on order status, or just pick up the phone to clarify any potential issues without risking compromising your PC.

Hackers tell Sony to halt the release of The Interview – A new message has been posted on GitHub, purporting to be from the Sony hackers and offering a fresh batch of sensitive corporate data. The message threatens further consequences if the studio continues with its release of “the movie of terrorism,” believed to refer to The Interview, an upcoming comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It’s the most explicit reference to the film that the attackers have made so far, although many had previously linked the attacks to North Korean retaliation for the film’s release.

Company News:

Blackphone launches app store for personal security and privacy – Together with the launch of updated custom Android software PrivatOS, the handset maker has revealed a new store dedicated to security and privacy applications.

BlackBerry, NantHealth put genome browser on Passport – The collaboration, first in what the companies hope will be a series of offerings, highlights how BlackBerry is going after regulated verticals such as healthcare.

Amazon tipped to be testing bike delivery in NYC – Latest among Amazon’s new delivery projects is a bike delivery service being tested in New York City. The program is called Amazon Prime Now, according to sources that spoke to the Wall Street Journal, and it aims to provide customers with their orders within an hour of placing them. This will give the company an edge on competing online retailers, and will give consumers the immediacy that results from shopping at brick-and-mortar shops.

Oracle asks Supreme Court to reject Android copyright case – Oracle is trying to make sure its billion-dollar copyright dispute with Google over the Android OS doesn’t make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The companies have been battling for years over whether Google infringed Oracle’s copyright when it lifted programming interfaces from Java for use in its Android mobile OS. There’s a lot of money at stake, with Oracle seeking at least $1 billion for the alleged infringement. Some programmers are also watching the case, believing the outcome will affect their freedom to use other software APIs (application programming interfaces).

Alibaba’s Alipay Now Sees Over Half Of Its Transactions In China From Mobile Devices – China is in the midst of a mobile commerce boom, according to a new report from Alipay, the Alibaba-affiliated payments service that handles more than 80 million transactions per day. The company‘s latest report found that 54 percent of the number of transactions on its PayPal-like service during the first ten months of 2014 were from mobile devices. That’s a huge increase on last year, during which mobile accounted for just 22 percent of all payments.

Portland sues Uber over unapproved launch – This past Friday, Uber announced its arrival in Portland, OR, with the ridesharing service sending out drivers to pick up riders without city approval. Portland officials immediately denounced the move, threatening to go after drivers and to “throw the book at” Uber. That didn’t deter the service, however, which encouraged its drivers to start working in the city despite the risks. Merely one weekend later, Portland has filed a lawsuit against Uber.

Games and Entertainment:

Mario Maker lets you change the game on the fly – Almost every game developer, at one point in their early lives, tried recreating the classic Mario game in one form or another. Last June, Nintendo made a surprise move by revealing Mario Maker, a Wii U exclusive that actually let you do exactly that, no programming required. At the Game Awards over the weekend, Nintendo stepped it up a notch and wowed would be game designers and gamers alike with a new trailer that shows the full power of Mario Maker’s interface, letting you change Mario’s world even as you play.


General George Patton’s rights holders go to war with video game maker – US Army Gen. George S. Patton once said that “the object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” Decades later, the rights holder to the Patton namesake is launching another war, this one against California video game maker Maximum Family Games. The publisher produced a strategy game called History Legends of War: Patton, and it now has until Friday to answer a federal infringement lawsuit from CMG Worldwide, which owns the rights to the former World War II legend. It’s the third lawsuit of its type lodged this year. Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega sued the publisher of Call of Duty: Black Ops II over his likeness being used without permission in that game. And celebrity Lindsay Lohan sued Rockstar, the maker of Grand Theft Auto V, alleging that elements of the game tread too close to her real life.


A “let’s play” video from Outside Xbox of History Legends of War: Patton.

The Importance of Aimlessness in Gaming – One of the best ways to play Far Cry 4 is blindly. Don’t look at the map—either on the menu screen or the miniature version that sits at the screen’s bottom left. Just open the door, head on out and keep walking. You’ll soon enough find something to occupy your time: a skirmish between forces you’re loyal to and recruits from the royal army; a rampant rhinoceros wrecking a convoy; a glittering lake protecting its sunken secrets with a pair of all-teeth demon fish. Or, y’know what’s just as fun? Simply looking around. Or hanging out with elephants, or clambering over a hill just to see what’s on the other side (it’s usually something that wants to kill you).


The procedurally generated space exploration game No Man’s Sky looks amazing – UK-based Hello Games released another trailer for its highly-anticipated upcoming PC and PS4 title, No Man’s Sky. The game, slated for a 2015 release, is a procedurally generated space exploration game with stunning visuals. In other words, players will be able to explore planets and solar systems that are randomly generated. The results continue to look promising; here’s a closer look.


Your Christmas Gaming Guide [Updated] – We have put together a large guide to gaming gifts for Christmas. So if you are wondering what to buy a gamer for Christmas, look no further. We’ve covered the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Grumpy Cat has made over $95 million in two years – Bad news, Internet. A smallish cat with a permanent grimace has earned more money in two years than you’re likely to see in your entire lifetime. According to her owner, Grumpy Cat has raked in $95 million in just two years. Nowadays, that money is coming from numerous sources. The original YouTube video posted in September of 2012 is still going strong; it’s now closing in on 17 million views. That’s nowhere near enough to break YouTube’s counter code, but it’s still a heck of a lot of views and a good chunk of advertising income.


Bondic liquid plastic welds plastic, wood, and fabric together – A new product called Bondic has debuted and this isn’t a glue. The makers of Bondic say that people should think of it more as welding than gluing. Bondic is a liquid plastic that remains a liquid and hardens into a plastic that can be sanded and painted after exposure to UV light. Bondic can be built up layer by layer to achieve the strength needed for repairs. It will work on multiple materials include wood, plastic, and fabric. As far as glue goes, Bondic is rather expensive at $22 per tube. The tube contains the glue and a UV light source on one end for hardening the plastic.


How to make the most money from old gadgets – Selling old electronics doesn’t need to be a hassle if your end game is making the most cash. The bad news first: if you want the absolute best price possible, shop around and compare deals. Don’t rely on one source, because a better deal may be waiting around the corner. The good news? With a few tips, that sweet cash return can help subsidise your new devices.

Something to think about:

“It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.”

–     Malcolm Forbes

Today’s Free Downloads:

FileBot Portable – FileBot is the ultimate tool for renaming your movies, tv shows or anime and downloading subtitles. It’s smart, streamlined for simplicity and just works.


A simple user-interface tuned for drag-n-drop

Rename hundreds of media files in a matter of seconds

Fetch episode lists from TVRage, AniDB or TheTVDB

Download subtitles from OpenSubtitles, Subscene or Sublight

Find exact/linked subtitles from OpenSubtitles and Sublight

Easily create and verify sfv, md5 and sha1 files


Homedale – With Homedale you can monitor the signal strength of multiple WLAN Access Points.

You can view a summary of all available access points with their:

signal strength

encryption [WEP/WPA/WPA2]



other settings

You can also see the signal strength of selected access points in a graph over the time. With a right mouse click, you can start logging and create a screenshot.

Homedale is freeware. However, if you enjoy using Homedale and would like to help support its development, please consider making a donation.


Samsung SSD Magician – The Samsung SSD Magician software facilitates easy maintenance and use of Samsung SSD products connected to a desktop or notebook computer.

In addition to providing information about the user’s system and SSD product, Samsung SSD Magician also supports advanced features, like SSD performance management, benchmarking for optimum performance, new firmware updates, etc.

Get Samsung SSD Magician and give it a try to fully assess its capabilities!

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA warrantless bulk phone metadata spying continues unabated – The NSA’s bulk phone metadata spying program was renewed for another 90 days, the fourth time the warrantless snooping has been reauthorized following President Barack Obama promising reform last January, the government said Monday.

That means the nation’s telecoms will continue forwarding a database to the government that includes the phone numbers of all calls, the international mobile subscriber identity number of mobile callers, the calling card numbers used in calls, and the time and duration of those calls to and from the United States.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the program 18 months ago, but the numerous calls for reform since have fallen on deaf ears.

UK court to review legality of fast-tracked surveillance law – A surveillance law that was rushed through by the U.K. government will be reviewed by the country’s High Court to determine if it violates human rights.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, also known as DRIPA, was adopted in July by the U.K. government, after the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) invalidated EU laws requiring communication providers to retain metadata. The EU court said those laws seriously interfered with fundamental privacy rights. Since the U.K. law that preceded DRIPA was based on the invalidated EU laws, it needed replacement legislation.

However, the new law is worse than the one it replaces, according to civil rights groups which pointed out that, for instance, it not only gives law enforcement officers access to metadata but also allows them access to the content of messages, even if they are held by companies outside the U.K.

Even though DRIPA is quite new and now under review, the U.K. government is already planning to add onto the law to address a so-called “capabilities gap” that authorities face when trying to obtain communications data.

Idaho mom’s suit over NSA database gets a cool reception from appeals court – An Idaho woman named Anna Smith filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSA telephone database. She was represented by her husband, Peter Smith, pictured above at today’s 9th Circuit hearing.

Since the Snowden leaks first made clear the US government’s sweeping database of phone call data, four separate legal challenges to that program have been filed in federal courts. Three of them now await decision from appeals courts.

This morning, a federal lawsuit directly challenging the NSA’s vast phone call database was heard by the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. And the three-judge panel that heard Smith v. Obama seemed skeptical of the plaintiff’s claims that the database should be ruled unconstitutional.

Anna Smith is an unusual plaintiff. In an interview last year with The Washington Post, she described herself as a “northern Idaho mom” with no particular legal background. “It’s none of their business what I’m doing—who I call, when I call, how long I talk… I think it’s awesome that I have the right to sue the president,” Smith, then 32, told The Post. “I’m just a small-town girl.”

Her husband Peter Smith, who argued the appeal this morning, is a commercial litigator with no experience handling a constitutional or national security lawsuit. For the appeal, Smith accepted legal help from the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, both of which have their own lawsuits challenging the NSA database.

Corporate Abuse of Our Data – Last week, we learned about a striking piece of malware called Regin that has been infecting computer networks worldwide since 2008. It’s more sophisticated than any known criminal malware, and everyone believes a government is behind it. No country has taken credit for Regin, but there’s substantial evidence that it was built and operated by the United States.

Right now, antivirus companies are probably sitting on incomplete stories about a dozen more varieties of government-grade malware. But they shouldn’t. We want, and need, our antivirus companies to tell us everything they can about these threats as soon as they know them, and not wait until the release of a political story makes it impossible for them to remain silent.

What Bad, Shameful, Dirty Behavior is U.S. Judge Richard Posner Hiding? Demand to Know – Richard Posner has been a federal appellate judge for 34 years, having been nominated by President Reagan in 1981. At a conference last week in Washington, Posner said the NSA should have the unlimited ability to collect whatever communications and other information it wants: “If the NSA wants to vacuum all the trillions of bits of information that are crawling through the electronic worldwide networks, I think that’s fine.” The NSA should have “carte blanche” to collect what it wants because “privacy interests should really have very little weight when you’re talking about national security.”

His rationale? “I think privacy is actually overvalued,” the distinguished jurist pronounced. Privacy, he explained, is something people crave in order to prevent others from learning about the shameful and filthy things they do:

Much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct. Privacy is mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you.

Unlike you and your need to hide your bad and dirty acts, Judge Posner has no need for privacy – or so he claims: “If someone drained my cell phone, they would find a picture of my cat, some phone numbers, some email addresses, some email text,” he said. “What’s the big deal?” He added: “Other people must have really exciting stuff. Do they narrate their adulteries, or something like that?”

I would like to propose a campaign inspired by Judge Posner’s claims (just by the way, one of his duties as a federal judge is to uphold the Fourth Amendment). In doing so, I’ll make the following observations:

Australia: Data-retention costs report kept confidential – Attorney-General George Brandis has cited Cabinet confidentiality as being behind his decision to reject a Senate motion for the government to release a PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the cost of the government’s data-retention legislation.

Legislation currently being reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security would require Australian telecommunications companies to retain a set of customer information, including IP addresses, call records, and other personal information for a period of two years for warrant-less access by designated law-enforcement agencies.

The legislation has been resisted by a number of telcos on cost grounds, as well as civil rights and privacy advocates, due to the associated privacy implications with a large wealth of data collected over that two-year period.


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