Tag Archives: Google

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – September 30, 2015

How to prepare for the nightmare of losing a smartphone;  Microsoft tries to clear the air on Windows 10 privacy furor;  Apple: Here’s how we try to protect your privacy;  Microsoft Excel vs. Google Sheets: The 4 key ways Sheets beats Excel;  Facebook ‘Entry Price’ Rumor Is a Hoax;  Pro tip: Add website shortcuts to your home screen with Opera; Google releases improved Chromecast for the same $35 price (hands-on);    How to reinstall default apps in Windows 10;  Ransomware: To pay or not to pay;  Google Wants to Take Your Kids on Virtual Field Trips;  Newly found TrueCrypt flaw allows full system compromise;  Google Photos Users Have Already Uploaded 50 Billion Photos And Videos;  How to port bookmarks and favorites to Edge;  Thousands of medical devices are vulnerable to hacking;  140 Movies and TV Shows Leaving Netflix in October;  Microsoft’s Project Spark Goes Free Oct. 5;  New 1 TB Xbox One bundle comes with these three games;  Tinder Irked by Ad Linking App to STDs;  Edward Snowden is now on Twitter.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft tries to clear the air on Windows 10 privacy furor – Executives in Redmond were caught flat-footed after this summer’s Windows 10 launch by charges that the new operating system is spying on customers. Several new statements for consumers and IT pros today aim to explain why those accusations are unfounded.

How to prepare for the nightmare of losing a smartphone – Smartphones can alleviate many burdens for us thanks to the conveniences they provide – which means if they are lost or damaged that can also place a hefty burden upon their owner. In fact, it’s safe to say this could pose a serious problem for many people; not only does a smartphone loss represent a loss of the above-mentioned features, but could represent a financial hardship, expose private data to untrustworthy individuals, or even result in identity theft or fraudulent activity. It happened to me a while back and I survived the experience, though not entirely unscathed. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you reduce the burden of a lost smartphone as much as possible, both before and after the unthinkable occurs.

Facebook went down for the third time this month – At approximately 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, (EDT) the popular social network went down. This is the third time in September that the site has failed. The other incidents, however, lasted for only a few minutes. Downdetector, a Web site that tracks Web site problems, reported a spike in Facebook problems. The DownForEveryoneOrJustMe site also reported that Facebook was dead in the water. Users took to other social networks, such as Twitter and Google+ to vent their frustration. Most of them were taking the failure with a sense of humor.  Others were really annoyed.

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Most people took Facebook’s hour long blackout with a sense of humor.

Facebook ‘Entry Price’ Rumor Is a Hoax – By now, most of us have been around the Internet block time or two, and can easily spot a hoax when we see it. So if you saw posts in your Facebook News Feed yesterday claiming that the social network will soon change its privacy policy or charge for service, you probably knew it was bogus. But despite being a common ruse, enough people fell for the latest Facebook hoaxes that the social network itself chimed in to say they’re not real.

Microsoft Excel vs. Google Sheets: The 4 key ways Sheets beats Excel – The battle lines are drawn. Is either really better? We’ll make this argument easier for you. We took a close, impartial look at both programs (as we did with Microsoft Word and Google Docs), and there actually are certain things Sheets offers that Excel does not, and some things Excel can do that Sheets can’t touch. Which is “best” really depends on what job you need it to do. Here we’ll give you the four reasons Google Sheets users can lord it over Excel users.

Google news: Do you ever get the feeling that Google has taken over the World?   Sad smile

Google Wants to Take Your Kids on Virtual Field Trips – The search giant on Monday announced a new service, called the Expeditions Pioneer Program, that will deliver virtual field trips to students at thousands of schools across the U.S. Starting this school year, Google will deliver to schools Asus smartphones, a tablet for teachers, a router to connect to the Expeditions program if the class doesn’t have a readily available Internet connection, and either Google Cardboard or Mattel View-Masters. Together, the products will put kids into a virtual-reality environment to explore what they’re learning about in class.

Google releases improved Chromecast for the same $35 price (hands-on) – A new Chromecast is here, and it’s still dirt cheap. The latest version of Google’s popular streaming dongle offers a host of improvements, to better allow users to “cast” video, audio, games and other apps from their phones, tablets and computers to their TVs. It’s available today in 17 countries for the same price as the old Chromecast: $35 in the US, £30 in the UK and AU$49 in Australia.

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Google Introduces Google Play Music Family Plan, $14.99 For Up To 6 People – Google is expanding its Google Play Music service with a new family plan. The company announced at its big event that families will be able to subscribe to Google Play Music for $14.99. For this price, you get 6 different profiles so that you can get music recommendations that work for your tastes. These plans will be available “later this year.”

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Google Photos Users Have Already Uploaded 50 Billion Photos And Videos – Today, Google Photos announced that users have already uploaded 50 billion photos and videos. The product launched about four months ago, being pulled out of Google+ as a standalone product. The team is also announcing three new features. Finally, the whole Google Photos experience will now be available on Chromecast; you can now cast your Google Photos to the device. It customizes your Chromecast experience and gets the random photos of mountains out of the way. You can even cast animated GIFs. It comes out this week on Android and iOS later on.

This is Pixel C: Google’s premium Android 2-in-1 – Google has revealed a high-powered tablet by the name of Pixel C, exemplifying the best in what the Google hardware ecosystem can do. Like the original Chromebook Pixel, this device has a high-definition display and is meant to lead the way for smart devices within its software’s ecosystem, in that case Chrome. In the case of the Pixel C, Google is leading the way with an Android tablet. This tablet works with a magnetically-connecting display that connects to a keyboard below.

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Pro tip: Add website shortcuts to your home screen with Opera – It’s time to sing the praises of Opera. Finally! The Android version of Opera has a feature that makes the web browser a worthy contender for your Android device. It allows you to easily create home screen launchers for websites, so that your most-used sites are just a tap away. Of course, there are other features that make this browser a worthy contender. Opera actually has some unique options available, but it’s this newest feature that truly raised my eyebrows.

How to port bookmarks and favorites to Edge – Usually, when you start a new browser, a dialog box asks you if you want to import bookmarks (called favorites in Microsoft browsers) from elsewhere. Edge doesn’t do that. Nor can you import an HTML file containing your bookmarks. But the transfer is actually pretty easy—provided you’re not using Firefox. A transfer from Mozilla’s browser is a bit trickier.

Amazon Flex Is Uber for Package Delivery – Need some extra cash ahead of the holiday shopping season? Amazon has a new gig for you. The company’s Flex on-demand delivery service replaces traditional couriers with everyday people. Earn $18 to $25 per hour simply by delivering packages using your own vehicle and an Android smartphone app. Initially available in Seattle, the program is open seven days a week to fulfill Amazon Prime Now one-hour deliveries. The company urged workers to “be your own boss,” distributing packages as much or as little as you want, when you want. Flex will soon roll out in Manhattan, Baltimore, Miami, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta, and Portland. Amazon may extend the types of packages delivered by its non-certified carriers in the future.

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Ditch Linux for Windows 10 on your Raspberry Pi with Microsoft’s IoT kit – The $75 (~£50) kit comes comes complete with an SD card preloaded with Windows 10 IoT Core, a Raspberry Pi 2 case, full size 40-pin breadboard, miniature WiFi module, BMP280 environmental sensor, RGB colour sensor, eight channel 10-Bit ADC with SPI interface, and a whole host of different resistors and LEDs. Those who needed Raspberry Pi 2 can pick up a $114.95 (~£70) with one included. A full list of the included components is below.

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Microsoft deploys first major server application on Ubuntu Linux – Microsoft’s love affair with Linux continues as the company releases HDInsight, Microsoft’s big data Hadoop-on-Azure service for Ubuntu Linux on its Azure cloud.

Report: YouTube Subscription Service (Finally) Arrives in October – YouTube’s long-awaited subscription service might finally arrive next month. Re/code, citing people with knowledge of YouTube’s plans, reported that the service will cost at least $10 a month and remove all ads from the service’s videos. The free, ad-supported YouTube will remain.

How to reinstall default apps in Windows 10 – Did you go a little crazy uninstalling all of the default apps in Windows 10? Luckily for you, getting them back is as easy as…well, uninstalling them in the first place.

Security:

Ransomware: To pay or not to pay – There is no need to tell victims of digital extortion how successful it is. What is needed is a way to help victims respond to the ransom demands.

Apple: Here’s how we try to protect your privacy – Apple is trying to ensure its loyal users that it takes their privacy seriously. In an update to its privacy webpage, the company highlighted several of its products and explained how it uses encryption and other methods to shield your privacy, stating: “We build privacy into everything we make.” Trying to address privacy concerns, the page runs down a list of various Apple products and services, including Apple Pay, iMessage, FaceTime, Apple’s Health and Fitness app, Safari and iCloud.

Novel malware dupes victims with fake blue screen of death – Malware creators are hijacking Microsoft Windows’ infamous BSOD in a fresh malvertising campaign.

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Thousands of medical devices are vulnerable to hacking, security researchers say – Thousands of medical devices, including MRI scanners, x-ray machines and drug infusion pumps, are vulnerable to hacking, creating significant health risks for patients, security researchers said this week.

Newly found TrueCrypt flaw allows full system compromise – Windows users who rely on TrueCrypt to encrypt their hard drives have a serious security problem: a researcher has discovered two critical flaws in the program. James Forshaw, a member of Google’s Project Zero team that regularly finds vulnerabilities in widely used software, has recently discovered two vulnerabilities in the driver that TrueCrypt installs on Windows systems. The flaws, which were apparently missed in an earlier independent audit of the TrueCrypt source code, could allow attackers to obtain elevated privileges on a system if they have access to a limited user account.

Company News:

Apple Music, iTunes Movies And iBooks Launches In China – China is already Apple’s largest market for app downloads and the company hopes consumers will be just as eager to try out Apple Music. The streaming music service launched there today, along with iTunes Movies and iBooks. After a three-month trial membership, Apple Music will cost 10 RMB per month, or about $1.60, which means it is the same price as a premium membership on Tencent’s QQ Music. The service will also be available for Android (which holds a 70 percent market share in China) later this fall. Apple Music’s competitors in China already include services from Tencent, Baidu, and Netease, but all face the challenge of convincing listeners who have spent years downloading pirated music that on-demand streaming is a more attractive alternative.

Evernote cutting dozens of jobs, closing three offices – Evernote announced a number of operating cutbacks on Tuesday, just a few months after the productivity software maker saw a shuffle at the top of the executive deck. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company is cutting 47 jobs and closing three of its global offices, although which locations weren’t specified in the announcement. Evernote co-founder Phil Libin stepped down as CEO this past summer, although he remained with the company as executive chairman. Just a few weeks ago, Libin joined venture capital firm General Catalyst as a general partner.

BlackBerry releases first photos of Android-powered Priv phone – In a blog post, the Waterloo, Ontario, smartphone maker released photos of the Priv, which is expected to launch in the fourth quarter. Priv stands for both “privacy and privilege,” according to BlackBerry CEO John Chen, and it’s the company’s first product to run on Google’s Android mobile software. The device underscores a radical departure from BlackBerry’s history of selling products using its own homegrown software. After years of battling Android, the world’s most popular operating system for smartphones and tablets, BlackBerry is embracing what its much larger rival has to offer.

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Box powers ahead with new app and services for businesses – Box is looking to punch above its weight in a ring that includes Microsoft and Google, and showed a bulked-up set of new products and services at its BoxWorks conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. Box needs more than just the 11 percent of paying customers that it has now, so appealing to enterprises is critical for the new products. They include a new app for the iPhone, and new capabilities that could make the service more attractive to businesses in particular markets.

Report: Twitter mulling posts with more than 140 characters – Twitter and some of its most enterprising users have found simple ways to get around the service’s major limit of 140 characters per post, whether by enabling full-Tweet embeds, offering username tags within photos, or making it easier to read images loaded with text. But according to a Tuesday report by Re/code, the 140-character wall itself may soon crumble.

Alibaba enters ‘strategic’ agreement with India’s Paytm – China’s Alibaba Group has entered into an agreement with the parent company of India’s payments platform, Paytm, in a bid to boost its footprint into the subcontinent.

Games and Entertainment:

Google’s new Chromecast has a new look, catches up to modern Wi-Fi standards – It might have been the worst-kept secret leading up to today’s Google event — aside from the new Nexus phones, that is — but Google has just announced two new Chromecast devices: a second-generation stick for streaming video, and a Chromecast Audio dongle that adds wireless music-streaming capabilities to any speaker with a 3.5mm auxiliary jack. Like the first Chromecast, which was brought to market in 2013, the new Chromecast for video plugs into the back of a TV set via an HDMI port, and it mirrors, or casts, content from the Chromecast mobile app to TV screens. And like the first one, it costs just $35, making it a less expensive option than any of the streaming devices that Apple, Amazon, or Roku have to offer.

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Chromecast audio demo

New 1 TB Xbox One bundle comes with these three games – Microsoft’s week-long Xbox One bundle announcement campaign continues today with the reveal of another 1 TB system. This package, the Xbox One Holiday Bundle, includes a 1 TB system and copies of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Rare Replay, and Ori and the Blind Forest. The bundle will launch in October for $400. Unlike the Rise of the Tomb Raider system, this one does not appear to be exclusive to any retailers. It does not come with a Kinect camera.

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Microsoft

Hitman’s new release date is March 11, here’s what will be included at launch – Following its recent delay, Square Enix has confirmed IO Interactive’s latest Hitman title will be released on March 11, and detailed what will be included in the digital launch package. The March 11 release will feature the “initial launch content,” which contains the Paris, Sapienza and Marrakesh locations, together comprising six campaign missions. These will all be replayable through the user-created Contracts missions, which allow players to designate new targets for assassination.

WildStar promises less grind as it goes free-to-play today – It was the most promising MMORPG of 2014. Then it was the most disappointing MMORPG of 2014. And now it’s (maybe) the most promising MMORPG of 2015? I’m talking about WildStar, which as of today is officially free-to-play. It’s the latest (and hopefully the last) MMO to launch with a subscription plan and then make the slow, arduous transition to a friendlier business model. Here’s how it works:

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Microsoft’s Project Spark Goes Free Oct. 5 – Microsoft is transitioning Project Spark, which lets players create their own gaming experiences, into a free and open platform. Starting Oct. 5, Redmond will “automatically unlock previously paid downloadable content for new and existing Project Spark users,” the company said in a forum post. “Microsoft will pivot from producing DLC and active feature development to encouraging more user generated content and opening the Project Spark experience.” All players who purchased Project Spark content digitally or via a retail disc, and activated it by product key redemption on or after July 28, will be entitled to Microsoft Store credit. The same goes for folks with a balance of purchased in-game tokens. Credits will be awarded automatically within 30-60 days after Oct. 5.

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The Simpsons tipped to finally end within the next 4 years – The Simpsons, the animated comedy that grew from having a small but loyal audience after its 1989 debut, to being the American television icon it is today, may finally have an end date. The show is widely considered to have peaked around season 10, and has been on a steady decline since then, albeit with the occasional highlight. Maybe that’s just what happens after over 25 years on the air? Either way, every fan of the show has wondered at some point when The Simpsons will come to an end, and now one of the show’s creators has given a timeframe.

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140 Movies and TV Shows Leaving Netflix in October – The fall is upon us, and with it the ax falls on not 40 (like in August) or even 76 (like in September) but a full 140 titles leaving Netflix this October. Here’s a quick look at the three I feel most deserving of being missed, fellow geeks, but there are many, many more that will be missed. Likewise keep an eye out for real nerd-centric movies taking a powder, including a couple of Star Treks, World War Z, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and the entire single season of Caprica.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Tinder Irked by Ad Linking App to STDs – Mobile-dating service Tinder is not too happy about being included in an ad campaign that suggests it contributes to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Tinder has called on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to take down ads that argue mobile dating apps, including Tinder, could expose users to sexually transmitted diseases. Tinder told the BBC that the ads represent “wholly unsubstantiated accusations” that are an attempt by the AHF to get people to “take an HIV test offered” by the organization. In a press release, AHF referenced a recent Vanity Fair article that portrayed the dating site as a haven for empty hook-ups. That article also prompted backlash from Tinder, which fired off a barrage of late-night tweets in defense of the app. It later apologized for overreacting, though. The AHF plans to continue its campaign. The organization currently has ads in Los Angeles, but says that it will bring them to other major cities, including New York and Miami, in the coming weeks.

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We Drove Tesla’s Crazy Fast Model X SUV – I was hoping I might walk away from my short test drive in Tesla’s Model X without the desire to throw down $130,000 I don’t have… Alas. After years of the Model X being seemingly right around the corner, the first few cars are being delivered to drivers tonight. I got to take one for a spin — and yes, I got to stomp the gas pedal.

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Smart glove translates sign language into speech, text – Saudi designer Hadeel Ayoub has developed the “SignLanguageGlove”, a so-called smart glove that wirelessly translates sign language as it is signed, doing so into speech or visual letters for those on the receiving end to understand. The idea is that someone who signs to communicate will have trouble doing so if the person with whom they are talking doesn’t read sign language. With the glove, what they sign becomes spoken language, removing the barrier. The sign language will be translated and shuttled to the other person’s mobile device. An array of five sensors in the glove’s fingers detect the finger motions, while an accelerometer tracks the signer’s hands. Ayoub made the accompanying software, which translates the motions into words. There’s also a text-to-speech chip for turning it into spoken communications.

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Indian PM Modi visits US tech chiefs in wake of draconian encryption policy debacle – It is a testimony to the immense attractiveness of the Indian market that the leaders of some of the most powerful technology companies in the world rallied around to meet and indulge the leader of a country, one who wanted to effectively handcuff the same companies and the services they offer. Or at least, that’s what events that transpired over the last week or two indicated.

Tim Cook says businesses need to step up where governments don’t – Since taking over from Steve Jobs as CEO, one of the things Tim Cook has brought to Apple is a greater push to address social problems. On Tuesday at the Boxworks conference in San Francisco, Cook said he wants other companies to do the same. Apple has taken a few important steps along that road. Cook said the company’s U.S. operations are running entirely on renewable energy, and Apple is now focused on getting its supply chain to the same point — though that could be a challenge given the scale of its factory operations in China.

Photos: 15 innovative objects that changed daily life – The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Object Project exhibit showcases everyday items that were revolutionary once upon a time.

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11 massive crowdfunding disasters – There’s no denying that crowdfunding has completely changed the way people do business, mostly for the good. For every brilliant idea that makes it to market smoothly, there’s one that runs into trouble. Whether it’s the result of new business owners not understanding the work that goes into producing and fulfilling or just unscrupulous scammers looking to take the money and run, many Kickstarters and Indiegogos end up with very unhappy customers. These 11 crowdfunding campaigns that resulted in nothing but heartbreak.

Something to think about:

“It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.”

–      Julius Caesar

Downloads:

PaperScan Scanner Software: Free Edition – The Free Edition of PaperScan Scanner Software allows users to benefit for free from the advantages of a universal scanning with post-processing capabilities tool.

Features:

Limited batch TWAIN & WIA scanning / import (10 pages).

Save as single page PDF/A, TIFF, JPEG, JPEG 2000, PNG, JBIG2, WEBP.

Post Image Processing: color adjustment, color space conversion, effects, filters, crop and more…

PDF Encryption support (read & write).

Flatbed and document feeder support.

Duplex scanning support.

Dictionary .NET – Dictionary .NET is a tiny and smart multilingual dictionary translating from/to 91 languages …

It integrates Google, Bing and Yandex services without installing and loading anything.

Auto-detect any language > Dictionary > Translate > Search with just One-Click or a Hotkey.

Dictionary .NET – Dictionary .NET is a tiny and smart multilingual dictionary translating from/to 91 languages …

It integrates Google, Bing and Yandex services without installing and loading anything.

Auto-detect any language > Dictionary > Translate > Search with just One-Click or a Hotkey.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Edward Snowden is now on Twitter – NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has joined Twitter, taking over an abandoned account at @Snowden. An accompanying Intercept piece described the move as part of Snowden’s ongoing role as a public figure. Snowden seems to have had help from Twitter HQ in acquiring the abandoned screen name, and the account is already verified. In less than an hour, he accumulated more than 80,000 followers, but as of press time, he is only following a single account: @NSAgov.

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Feds say your hard drives are for the government’s keeping – The Justice Department is set to argue Wednesday before a federal appeals court that it may prosecute people for crimes based on evidence obtained from their computers—evidence that was outside the scope of an original probable-cause search warrant.

That’s a big deal in today’s digital age. Society has evolved to the point that many people keep all of their papers and effects co-mingled on their computer hard drives.

The highly nuanced legal dispute initially seems innocent enough. It concerns an accountant’s tax evasion conviction and two-year prison sentence in 2012 that was based on a court-authorized search and imaging of his computer files. Stavros Ganias’ files were copied as part of an Army overbilling investigation into one of his clients. Holding on to the imaged files for nearly three years, Connecticut authorities discovered fresh evidence unrelated to the initial search of the files and got new search warrants to investigate more of the accountant’s mirrored files that were already in the government’s possession. All the while, Ganias had subsequently deleted those files from his hard drives after the government had imaged them, according to court records.

The case asks how long the government can retain somebody’s computer files—files that are unrelated to a court warrant. The accountant’s lawyers said that once the government got what it needed regarding the accountant’s client, the remainder of Ganias’ files should have been purged. Federal prosecutors disagreed and said they retained the imaged files for numerous reasons, including for authentication purposes and to allow “the government to comply with its discovery obligations imposed by the Constitution.”

Who says that Canadians don’t write protest songs about politicians? Blue Rodeo drops anti-Harper tune – Who says that Canadian musicians don’t write protest songs about politicians? Well, the Toronto Star did in an article published Sunday. The article is correct in saying that topically political songs are not common in contemporary Canadian music, yet one of Canada’s most beloved bands released just such a song on Monday.

Blue Rodeo’s new song, titled Stealin’ All My Dreams, minces no words in making a target of Prime Minister Steven Harper.

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In a news release, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy said of himself and bandmate Greg Keelor: “Blue Rodeo does not always speak with one voice. However, we feel collectively that the current administration in Canada has taken us down the wrong path. We do not seem to be the compassionate and environmentally conscious nation we once were. As respectful as we are of the variety of opinions held by our audience, we felt it was time to speak up and add our voice to the conversation.”

The song is available as a free download and has racked up more than 76,000 views on YouTube as of Tuesday afternoon.

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Click here.

US defends Safe Harbor, says it never uses “indiscriminate surveillance” – The United States Mission to the European Union has responded to the opinion by the Court of Justice of the European Union’s Advocate General Yves Bot that the current Safe Harbour scheme may be illegal because of NSA spying. It claims that the US “does not and has not engaged in indiscriminate surveillance of anyone, including ordinary European citizens.” As reported by Ars last week, the ability of companies to transfer the personal data of EU citizens to the US is under threat because Bot believes that the Safe Harbour’s privacy safeguards are inadequate. In particular, Bot was concerned about what he called the the “mass, indiscriminate surveillance” of EU citizens under the PRISM programme, which is believed to give the NSA direct access to all personal data held by Facebook and other US companies in their databases.

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In a statement issued yesteday, The United States Mission to the European Union—effectively, the US embassy to the EU—desperately tries to refute the Advocate General’s logic. That’s because US companies will be unable to rely on the Safe Harbour framework, and their data transfers across the Atlantic will be illegal under EU law, if the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) follows his arguments, as usually happens. The US Mission writes: “The Advocate General’s opinion notes that it was required to accept the facts as found by the Irish High Court. There was, however, no actual fact-finding in this case; instead, the Irish High Court concluded, on the basis of exhibits to plaintiff’s affidavits that the accuracy of his allegations regarding U.S. intelligence practices ‘is not in dispute.’ But that is simply not the case.”

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – September 14, 2015

The 37 Best Websites to Learn Something New;  Sony: Don’t Use Those ‘Waterproof’ Xperias Underwater;  Apple TV vs. Roku vs. Android TV: Media Streamer Shoot-Out;  Headphone buyers: Here’s what you need to know about low- vs. high-impedance models;  How Long Will the Red Light Last? There’s an App for That;  When your computer reboots itself over and over again;  How to restore ringtones to iPhone;  Office 2016 adopts branches, update-or-else strategy of Windows 10;  PIN-changing Android ransomware spreading in the US;  Tumblr now has its own fashion line;  The difference between antivirus and anti-malware;  Meet the worst 100 passwords from the Ashley Madison hack;  This week in games;  How the NFL—not the NSA—is impacting data gathering well beyond the gridiron;  Facebook make big gains in Africa on mobile use;  GoPro on a balloon found after 2 years with stunning Earth shots;  6 Things You Should Always Include on Your Resume;  10AppsManager: Tool to uninstall, reinstall Windows 10 preinstalled Store apps (free);  FBI, intel chiefs decry “deep cynicism” over cyber spying programs.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The 37 Best Websites to Learn Something New – Forget overpriced schools, long days in a crowded classroom, and pitifully poor results. These websites and apps cover myriads of science, art, and technology topics. They will teach you practically anything, from making hummus to building apps in node.js, most of them for free. There is absolutely no excuse for you not to master a new skill, expand your knowledge, or eventually boost your career. You can learn interactively at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home. It’s hard to imagine how much easier it can possibly be. Honestly, what are you waiting for?

Apple TV vs. Roku vs. Android TV: Media Streamer Shoot-Out – The newest Apple TV adds some long-awaited features to a device that hasn’t been updated since 2012, a lifetime in the world of streaming media. While Google’s first connected media platform, Google TV, didn’t catch on, Android has still become a powerhouse for media hubs thanks to the Amazon Fire TV and Android TV devices. Roku was one of the first dedicated media hub brands, and it’s gained in popularity thanks to an easy-to-use interface and hundreds of content channels. There’s also a slew of sticks you can just plug into the back of your HDTV, as well as smart HDTVs with built-in apps. A lot has changed in three years.

How to quickly jump to often-used Windows app subsections in Windows 10’s Start menu – I don’t dive into Windows 10’s Settings app that often, but when I do it’s usually to check two or three things, such as Windows Update or my Wi-Fi settings. An easy way to jump to a particular section of the Settings app is to search for it with Cortana in the taskbar. But if repeatedly typing “Wi-Fi” or “Windows Update” sound tedious, there’s a far easier way to jump to oft-used parts of the Settings app. Instead of searching or navigating the Settings app manually, you can pin sections to the Start menu. This tip isn’t just for the Settings app, however—you can also use it in a limited number of other Windows apps such as Mail and OneNote. For our example here, however, we’ll stick with the Settings app.

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Headphone buyers: Here’s what you need to know about low- vs. high-impedance models – The impedance specification is ignored by most headphone buyers, but it might be one of the most important. Not that anything catastrophic will occur with an impedance mismatch, but you might not get the best sound quality from a headphone with impedance that’s too high or too low for your music player or home amplifier.

5 tips for getting started with Slack – Started as side project for a video game company, Slack quickly moved front and center and took off as word of mouth spread among the tech companies that were using it. One of the company’s mottos is “Be less busy,” and many have heralded Slack as the product that could end reliance on email. If you’re planning on deploying Slack within your organization, here are some pointers to help get you going.

Sony: Don’t Use Those ‘Waterproof’ Xperias Underwater – Turns out, Sony’s “waterproof” Xperia devices might not be so waterproof after all. After talking up the waterproof capabilities of its Xperia devices for years — even running marketing campaigns showing people happily using its devices underwater — Sony now says that they should not be submerged. As XperiaBlog first reported, Sony recently revised its support page on water and dust protection to warn people against taking a swim with their gadgets. “Remember not to use the device underwater,” the site says.

Supporting causes on Facebook is about to get a lot easier – You’re perhaps familiar with the idea of changing your Facebook profile picture to support a specific cause or event: gay marriage, cancer research, your mate’s stag do, and so on. Facebook has noticed the trend and wants to help – the social media behemoth is testing out a new feature that lets you set a temporary profile picture that expires after a set number of hours, days or weeks. The idea is that the picture automatically reverts back to the original profile image without you having to remember to change it – your rainbow-coloured portrait will only appear for as long as it’s relevant, in other words.

When your computer reboots itself over and over again – Something is rotten in the state of your Windows PC. Here’s how to deal with a computer that keeps rebooting.

Office 2016 adopts branches, update-or-else strategy of Windows 10 – Microsoft will launch Office 2016 for Windows on Sept. 22, and has now detailed how it will deliver updates and upgrades with a cadence and rules similar to Windows 10.

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How Long Will the Red Light Last? There’s an App for That – It’s called EnLighten and it uses a phone’s GPS location and real-time traffic-signal information provided by the municipality to determine when a driver is stopped at a red light. It can then show on the phone’s screen a countdown in seconds of when the light will change and will also sound a chime when the light turns green to remind the driver that it’s time to get going. The iOS and Android apps work in a dozen or so U.S. cities and also have a dual timer for traffic lights with separate left-turn signals. But the EnLighten iPhone app can sync with the dashboard of BMWs with ConnectedDrive and the BMW Apps feature, provided you’re driving in Portland or Eugene, Oregon or Salt Lake City, Utah). It offers extra features, such as timing traffic lights so that you potentially don’t have to stop or even prevent an accident.

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How to restore ringtones to iPhone – Got an Apple, Mac, or iOS tech question? We have the answer. This time we have a reader whose custom-made iPhone ringtone library has seemingly disappeared. But that doesn’t mean those tones are gone for good! Here are the steps you can take to track them down on your Mac, then restore them to your iPhone.

Security:

The difference between antivirus and anti-malware – It seems like a simple question, right? What’s the difference between antivirus and anti-malware? But ask a security professional, and he answers as if it’s the riddle of the Sphinx. You just want a simple answer to a simple question. Is that too much to ask? The truth is, the answer to this question is a little complicated. But we’ve broken it down like a lumberjack chopping redwood into mulch. We’ll tell you what viruses and malware are, which types of threats antivirus and anti-malware companies fight, and how they do it. So look no further. The answer…is in the link.

PIN-changing Android ransomware spreading in the US – Before you get all riled up, this isn’t yet another Android vulnerability like Stagefright. This is your run of the mill malware installed through social engineering or carelessness, but one that has far graver ramifications than other ransomware. Discovered by researchers from security company ESET, the Android/Lockerpin.A ransomware goes the extra mile to actually change your device’s PIN code in such a way that trying to reset the PIN will lock the user, and ironically the attacker too, from the device completely, with no recourse other than a factory reset.

Meet the worst 100 passwords from the Ashley Madison hack – Security research group CynoSure Prime were able to find out the most common passwords that were used on Ashley Madison, a site which helps married people cheat on their partners, which suffered a massive data breach earlier this year when it was targeted by hackers. The list of the 100 most commonly-used passwords was first posted on Ars Technica.

Website hackers hijack Google webmaster tools to prolong infections – Hackers who compromise websites are also increasingly verifying themselves as the owners of those properties in Google’s Search Console. Under certain circumstances this could allow them to remain undetected longer than they otherwise would be, researchers warn.

Company News:

Security company litigates to bar disclosure related to its own flaws – FireEye is a publicly traded security firm that regularly finds and reports vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash and Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. But when security researcher Felix Wilhelm found five critical flaws in FireEye’s Malware Protection System, the company went to court to obtain an injunction barring the disclosure of some of the technical details. The move is generating howls of protest among security professionals, who argue that FireEye of all companies should know better than to stifle the free flow of vulnerability information.

Facebook make big gains in Africa on mobile use – Facebook is riding the wave of mobile adoption in Africa to help meet its goal of connecting businesses with people in emerging markets. Sixty percent of all Internet users in Africa are now active on Facebook and 80 percent of them access the site on mobile devices, according to statistics shared by the social network this week. According to the African Union’s first session of the Specialized Technical Committee on Communication and ICT last week, 84 percent of the continent’s population is covered by mobile networks.

Microsoft buys popular Android lock-screen app maker – Microsoft has added to its stable of Android apps with the acquisition of Double Labs, the makers of the Echo Notification Lockscreen, a popular app on Google’s mobile platform that helps users control the notifications they see.

Tumblr now has its own fashion line – Tumblr now has its own line of clothing featuring an eclectic array of apparel adorned with artwork from ten of the social network’s artists/users. The line isn’t limited to just clothing — there’s a backpack, for example (as well as a kimono); it’s unisex and designed to look the same as the Tumblr collective, at least in spirit. Half a dozen Tumblr users have also been selected to show off the new product line. The new Tumblr wear is said to be in celebration of Tumblr’s 10th New York Fashion Week participation.

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Google hires ex-Hyundai America CEO to lead self-driving car project – Google has hired a new CEO for its self-driving car project. John Krafcik, who worked at Ford and was President and CEO of Hyundai’s American operations before joining automotive price-comparison site TrueCar, will take the position in late September. In a statement, the veteran of the automobile industry said that Google’s technology “can save thousands of lives, give millions of people greater mobility, and free us from a lot of the things we find frustrating about driving today.” Krafcik has a background in automobile manufacturing, having worked on two “lean production” manifestos during his time at MIT, but a Google spokesperson told Automotive News that his hiring did not indicate the company would start producing cars itself.

Brad Smith will decide privacy policy, IP issues and more as Microsoft’s new president – If you’re interested in Microsoft’s stance on privacy or public policy, Brad Smith is the one to watch. The former general counsel at Microsoft, Smith will also become the company’s chief legal officer.

Etsy to test same-day deliveries as Amazon threat grows – Google offers product deliveries, and is working on expanding them. Amazon does and is doing the same. And then there’s Etsy, the website where all manner of crafts and creativity are offered. The service soon will face steep competition from Amazon, which is reportedly looking to start its own similar crafts marketplace, and in light of that it isn’t surprising Etsy will start testing its own same-day deliveries. The testing will take place in certain regions of New York City, the same place that Amazon and other services are and have been testing same-day and one-hour delivery services. This test is done in partnership with Postmates, and will also include next-day deliveries. Most appropriately, this delivery service will be called “Etsy ASAP”.

Etsy will now help designers find manufacturers – Six months after Etsy completed an IPO that valued it at $3.5 billion, the craft marketplace is expanding. The company is introducing Etsy Manufacturing, a new service that will link Etsy sellers — who often make items by hand — with small manufacturing companies. The operation is designed to help both sellers who’ve found success but have little time to fulfil larger orders, and smaller manufacturers, some of whom have lost business to huge manufacturers in countries where labor is cheaper.

Games and Entertainment:

How the NFL—not the NSA—is impacting data gathering well beyond the gridiron – We’re not talking about facial recognition devices, police body cams, or other security measures likely zeroing in on fans. Instead, employees from San Jose-based Zebra Technologies had recently finished scanning the NFL uniforms of the 49ers and of their opponents—the Dallas Cowboys. All of a sudden, an on-the-field de facto surveillance society was instantly created when Zebra techies activated nickel-sized Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) chips that were fastened inside players’ shoulder pads. Every movement of every player now could be monitored within an accuracy level of all but a few inches.

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Blizzard’s Final Starcraft II Expansion Lands November 10 – In case you were not tuned into the finals of WCS Europe earlier today, Blizzard, a popular gaming company, announced that the final chapter of its Starcraft II will touch down on November 10. The third iteration, called Legacy of the Void, will at once be a computer game, and Blizzard’s statement regarding the long-term viability of Starcraft proper as an esport. Starcraft II’s predecessor, Starcraft, proved a long-lived esports product popular the world around. Its successor has done even better.Regardless, here’s the new film. It’s worth a view.

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New Apple TV gets touch remote, Siri voice control, games and an app store, starts at $149, coming in October – The new box, still simply called “Apple TV,” was unveiled at the company’s September 9 event in San Francisco, sharing the stage with a new big-screen iPad and new iPhones. It’s a complete overhaul of the current device, which has been around since 2012. “We believe the future of television is apps,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook when introducing the device. The new Apple TV will be available in two versions: $149 for the 32GB model, and $199 for the 64GB model, and both start shipping to the US and dozens of other countries in October. The current Apple TV box remains on sale at $69. UK and Australian prices for the new model have not yet been announced, but $149 and $199 convert to £95 and £130, or AU$210 and AU$285.

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This week in games: Fallout 4 teaches the value of Strength, Ubisoft builds a theme park – It’s a short week, which I guess means nothing at all really happe—Wait, Ubisoft is opening a theme park? And there was a new Fallout 4 video and the first Tribes update in two years? I present your gaming wrap-up for the week of September 7-11.

Off Topic (Sort of):

6 Things You Should Always Include on Your Resume – To ensure your resume stands out (for the right reasons), there are a few things you’ll want to avoid and some you’ll definitely want to include, says Tina Nicolai, executive career coach and founder of Resume Writers’ Ink. “Basically employers want to see where candidates have earned, learned, and contributed.” Whether to include things like an objective statement, list of skills, and education will depend on your level of experience and industry — but here are six simple things you should always include on your resume, no matter what:

What porn site statistics can tell us about the worldwide console wars – First, the obvious disclaimer; YouPorn viewing statistics are not a perfect analogue for console popularity. It’s possible (and maybe even likely) that the userbase for one system or another is more or less likely to use their console to surf for porn. And it says nothing about whether they’re more likely to use the console for, you know, actual games. Still, YouPorn statistics seem to bear some resemblance to overall console popularity worldwide. Overall, YouPorn’s stats show 51% of visits coming from PlayStation, 39% from Xbox, and 10% from Wii systems. That’s decently close to the 50%/29%/20% split for PS4/XB1/Wii U sales in our latest analysis.

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GoPro on a balloon found after 2 years with stunning Earth shots – The GoPro line of action cameras, especially when paired with drones, have yielded a massive library of photos and videos that would have been otherwise impossible to take using commercial equipment. But when paired with a weather balloon, things get even more dramatic. In 2013, a group of five students from Arizona did just that and launched the GoPro into the atmosphere. Sadly, they lost track of the camera during after its reentry. Good thing they recovered it two years later in good condition because the footage it had stored is truly a sight to behold.

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Australian police get McLaren and Aston Martin supercars – You wouldn’t want to get into a high-speed car chase with one of these bad boys: the NSW Police Harbourside Local Area Command has just added a McLaren 650S and an Aston Martin Vanquish Volante to its official fleet. However, the two supercars aren’t for regular policing, nor will they be a permanent fixture on Sydney’s streets. They have been loaned to the force for just a few weeks by a local dealership, which will cover all the costs of the vehicles except for fuel. Both cars have been given a NSW Police makeover, with blue-and-white decals declaring their law enforcement affiliation. Underneath, the AU$450,000 McLaren 650S is a brilliant, eye-catching yellow, while the $500,000-plus Aston Martin Vanquish Volante is a suave silver. The cars made their police debut on September 12 at the annual Wall to Wall Ride for Remembrance, a day that pays tribute to the sacrifices of officers killed on duty.

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The McLaren 650S on loan to the NSW Police. NSW Police Harbourside LAC

The LAPD has a Tesla now – At a press conference today, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced the lease of 160 battery electric vehicles and 128 plug-in hybrids for the city’s vehicle fleet. “Today, we take another step toward becoming the most sustainable city in America,” the mayor told reporters. “This year, Los Angeles will become home to the largest city-owned fleet of pure battery electric vehicles anywhere in the country, and we will save taxpayer dollars along the way.” The city’s fleet already includes 23 electric scooters and three fully electric motorcycles, but this is the first major move into electric cars. The mayor has set ambitious environmental goals for the fleet, requiring that electric vehicles constitute half of the light duty fleet by 2017, and 80 percent of the city’s fleet purchases by 2025.

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10 automakers vow to make automatic emergency braking standard – The NHTSA, U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have announced that ten auto makers plan to offer automatic emergency braking as a standard feature. This is the latest step major car manufacturers are taking to bring more advanced safety technologies to a larger customer base, something that will eventually lead to such technologies being common on the road and, hopefully, a subsequent decrease in the number of crashes and deaths that happen. The auto makers are comprised of well-known car companies, including Audi, BMW, GM, Ford, Mercedes Benz, Mazda, Toyota, Tesla, Volvo, and Volkswagen. Furthermore, the IIHS and US Department of Transportation says that other makers of lightweight vehicles and truck manufacturers should also consider making automatic emergency braking (AEB) standard in their vehicles.

Something to think about:

“Fine, go to those Bangalore Infosys centers, but just for the hell of it go three miles aside and go look at the guy living with no toilet, no running water … The world is not flat and PCs are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs.”

–    Bill GatesThe Financial Times, Nov. 1, 2013

Downloads:

10AppsManager: Tool to uninstall, reinstall Windows 10 preinstalled Store apps – 10AppsManager is a freeware that will allow you to easily uninstall and reinstall the default, built-in, preinstalled Windows Store apps in Windows 10. While you can always manually uninstall or reinstall the Store apps, the process is not so easy for the preinstalled apps. It is easy to uninstall or reinstall 3rd-party apps, but not the default preinstalled apps. What this tool from our TWC stables does, is automate the process and let you carry out the operations in a click.

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WebBrowserPassView – WebBrowserPassView is a password recovery tool that reveals the passwords stored by the following Web browsers: Internet Explorer (Version 4.0 – 11.0), Mozilla Firefox (All Versions), Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. This tool can be used to recover your lost/forgotten password of any Website, including popular Web sites, like Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and GMail, as long as the password is stored by your Web Browser.

After retrieving your lost passwords, you can save them into text/html/csv/xml file, by using the ‘Save Selected Items’ option (Ctrl+S).

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FBI, intel chiefs decry “deep cynicism” over cyber spying programs – On a stage in a ballroom in the Walter Washington Convention Center on September 10, the heads of the United States’ intelligence community gathered to talk about the work their agencies perform and the challenges they face—or at least as much as they could in an unclassified environment. But the directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency also had one particular mission in mind as they took the stage at the Intelligence & National Security Summit, an industry event largely attended by government officials and contractors: stopping the poisoning of the public debate around their missions, and especially around the issue of encryption, by unreasonable haters.

CIA Director John Brennan suggested that negative public opinion and “misunderstanding” about the US intelligence community is in part “because of people who are trying to undermine” the mission of the NSA, CIA, FBI and other agencies. These people “may be fueled by our adversaries,” he said.

FBI Director James Comey referred to the backlash against his lobbying for backdoors into encrypted communications provided by the technology industry as “venom and deep cynicism” that are making a rational discussion about what could and should be done nearly impossible.

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The directors of the FBI, CIA, NSA, NGO, DIA, and NRO stand for a group picture. Sean Gallagher.

Apple, in refusing backdoor access to data, may face fines – This week, The New York Times reported that the Justice Dept. served Apple with a court order in a case “involving guns and drugs,” demanding it provide real-time access to iMessage, Apple’s proprietary service for sending messages between iPhones.

Apple refused — not because it necessarily wanted to, but because it couldn’t comply. The iPhone and iPad maker reportedly told the feds that the service is encrypted, making it impossible for the company let alone the feds to access the data they demanded, unlike phone companies which, under US wiretap laws, are required to comply.

The criminal case is under seal in an unidentified U.S. federal court.

Apple’s defiance comes at a time when the FBI is pushing for access to user data in the wake of the claims that the U.S. government had access to Silicon Valley systems through its PRISM surveillance program. In response to allegations it was complicit in spying on Americans, Apple quelled fears by revealing its iMessage texting and FaceTime calling services were encrypted and unable to be wiretapped, and said even it “cannot decrypt that data.” Around the same time, the company proceeded to offer device encryption, forcing feds to go directly to the suspect in question to get access to some user data.

Plan to shift internet’s control panel away from US government gets tentative thumbs-up – The plan to shift control of the top level of the internet away from the US government to domain name overseer ICANN has been given a tentative thumbs-up by the internet community.

A public comment period on the proposal for the IANA functions contract closed earlier this week with 159 submissions received. Just under half the comments came from individuals, but governments, the technical community, business groups, and civil society all sent in comments.

The vast majority of the comments were supportive of the plan overall, which will hand control over to a new affiliate of the current contract owner, ICANN, and two new groups set up to ensure that the contract is run effectively. In addition, a process to pull the IANA functions was identified as a last resort.

The proposal was pulled together from three different proposals covering the three main technical jobs that are being considered. Despite most commentators agreeing with the proposal, there were significant concerns over key aspects of the plan.

The same five issues were identified repeatedly from stakeholders as diverse as Google, the Internet Society, US Council for International Business (USCIB), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and others:

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – September 7, 2015

How to turn off Windows 10’s keylogger (yes, it still has one);  You Asked: Can My Phone Kill My Car Battery?  Addicted to Facebook? You are not alone;  Facebook Messenger is now the second most popular app;  10 Travel Apps That Will Make You Feel Like a Local;  Take advantage of the Microsoft Print to PDF feature in Windows 10;  How to get the most out of your inkjet printer ;  6 new Google Drive features you need to know about;  Best free video editing software;  Files on Seagate wireless disks can be poisoned, purloined;  Microsoft prepares new Windows 10 phones for India;  The trailer of Netflix’s first movie will chill you to the bone;  Injected electronics: The next wave of wearable tech?  Batman: Arkham Knight PC patch finally available;  Feeling sad could change how you see colours;  Comcast’s adding new features for football fans;  Windows Firewall Control (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to turn off Windows 10’s keylogger (yes, it still has one) – Microsoft pretty much admits it has a keylogger in its Windows 10 speech, inking, typing, and privacy FAQ: “When you interact with your Windows device by speaking, writing (handwriting), or typing, Microsoft collects speech, inking, and typing information—including information about your Calendar and People (also known as contacts)…” If that makes you feel creepy, welcome to the human race. The good news is that you can turn off the keylogging.

You Asked: Can My Phone Kill My Car Battery? – When you plug your phone into your car to charge it up — especially when the car’s engine isn’t running — a feeling of dread can sneak into your mind. “Can my phone kill my car battery?” this voice whispers. The short answer is “yes.” The long answer, however, imparts some electronics smarts.

Addicted to Facebook? You are not alone – On the back of Facebook’s rise in second quarterly revenue and the fact 1.49 billion people use Facebook, the survey shows some revealing trends in how we actually use Facebook in our lives. The survey was carried out by Stop Procrastinating — a UK based productivity site. It asked 2000 people who use Facebook regularly and found that a majority are worried that their use of Facebook is compulsive.

Facebook Messenger is now the second most popular app in the United States – Remember when Facebook spun off Messenger and forced you to download it separately? Turns out, even though users initially hated it, the company knew what it was doing. A new report from digital media analytics company comScore shows that Facebook Messenger is currently the second most popular app in America. Messenger is Facebook’s answer to concerns that younger users are gravitating more to messaging apps like Snapchat. Of late, Facebook has embellished the app, adding in video calling, instant video sharing, peer-to-peer payments and even a personal assistant called M. Whatever the reasons for the increased focus on Messenger, the company’s efforts are paying off.

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Spindle Is A Social App That Encourages You To Be Selfish With Your Content – While social media platforms theoretically can be a great place to document life’s special moments, the reality is that social pressure often forces us to curate and filter our content for others, instead of focusing on ourselves. Launched last week, Spindle is a social journaling app that solves this issue by putting the emphasis on letting a user create content for themselves, and share it with friends as an afterthought.

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WhatsApp tops 900 million monthly active users – While other mobile messaging apps continue to grow in popularity, it seems none can push the Facebook-owned WhatsApp from its throne. Founder Jan Koum revealed that the app now has an incredible 900 million monthly active users. The news was shared by Koum in a Facebook post, and means that WhatsApp has gained an additional 100 million new users in just under five months, and achieved a 50% growth rate over the last year.

10 Travel Apps That Will Make You Feel Like a Local – No one wants to feel like a tourist. And these days, people don’t even want to feel like travelers, but want to experience a place like a local. Luckily, there’s an app for that. Multiple apps even. From sleeping in a local’s apartment to getting them to cook you a meal there, these 10 apps will turn you into an insider anywhere you go.

Best free video editing software – Commercial video editors can be very expensive, of course, but you may not have to go that far. Whether you want to trim your clips down to size, add a soundtrack or captions, apply transitions or special effects, there are some great free tools which can help – and these are the very best around.

Photoshop for 40 quid: Affinity Photo pushes pixels further than most – When El Reg tested the leading alternatives to Photoshop we told you to keep an eye out for Affinity Photo, a Mac-only rival from Serif that looked like being the best yet. It’s now out of beta and available for £40, which would buy you a Photoshop subscription for less than five months. Still, you could get an image editing app for even less, and Apple already gives you one free – helpfully called Photos, just to make it impossible to Google any information about it. It’s just about capable of displaying and tagging your collection of pictures and making basic non-destructive tweaks, and it looks pretty, but Photoshop it ain’t. And Affinity Photo? Well, I’ve been tweaking pics and reviewing image editing apps for two decades, and this is the first one I can remember that I might actually want to use.

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This is an app for serious image manipulation and compositing, not just tweaking.

Take advantage of the Microsoft Print to PDF feature in Windows 10 – I’ve always been a fan of tools, such as CutePDF Writer, that allow me to generate a PDF file via a print option. There are just so many instances where this capability can come in extremely handy. Well, fortunately, Microsoft has finally bestowed such a feature in Windows 10. Called Microsoft Print to PDF, this feature is installed as a native printer in Windows 10, right next to the good old Microsoft XPS Document Writer. Let’s take a closer look.

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How to get the most out of your inkjet printer – Printers are probably one of the most hated pieces of consumer electronics. Most of the time we can live without them, but when we need them, we really need them, and more often than not, that’s the time when they decide to play up.

6 new Google Drive features you need to know about – Just in time for the school year, Google’s added new features to Docs, Sheets and Slides, its online productivity tools. But you don’t have to be a student to use these cool new features, since they’re available to anyone with a Google account. Here are our favorite additions.

Snooz “sound conditioner” aims for restful sleep – Some people need total darkness to sleep, others need a little light. In the same way, some people need complete silence, but others need noise. That noise can come from a smartphone app, but the artificial nature of these noises make it ineffective for some. Others just flip the fan on, but that’s not feasible in certain situations, and is a waste of energy. That’s where Snooz comes in — it’s a relatively small saucer-shaped horizontal “sound conditioner” that provides white noise.

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Snap digital camera takes Polaroid back to its instant photo days – The latest camera to bear the Polaroid name (it’s actually the work of a company called C&A Marketing, a brand licensing outfit) is the cheap-and-cheerful Snap. Snap isn’t like other digital point-and-shoots on market. It’s built for fun and shareability, but in an old-school, Polaroidy way. Instead of using built-in WiFi to zip your pictures off to Facebook friends, you can print out a copy and actually hand it to them on the spot. The 10mp shooter also has a cool “photo booth” mode. Switch it on and the Snap captures six pictures in 10 seconds, very much like those machines at the mall do.

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Five to Try: Hopper helps you score cheap flights, and Pokémon hits the Play Store – It’s Labor Day weekend here in the States, so it’s apt that our latest Five to Try picks focus on fun, relaxation, and entertainment. In fact, if the long weekend has you thinking about another breather on the horizon, Hopper can help you secure the best fares by predicting flight pricing trends. Meanwhile, Google’s new standalone Street View app lets you explore stunning photo spheres from around the world, while Scout Launcher refocuses your home screen on videos, music, and news.

Security:

Files on Seagate wireless disks can be poisoned, purloined – thanks to hidden login – CERT.org has reported Seagate wireless hard drives include “undocumented Telnet services” accessible with a hard-coded password. This allows “unrestricted file download capability to anonymous attackers with wireless access to the device.” And another flaw makes it possible to upload anything into the devices’ default file-sharing directory. The three flaws present in the device mean that anyone on your network – or can reach it from the outside – armed with the default password of “root” and enough savvy to try the username “root” can download the entire contents of the Seagate devices, then upload malware into them. Which could mean fun times if bad guys decide to replace your putty.exe, or Office documents, with something containing malware. Seagate’s made new firmware available, version 3.4.1.105 to be precise, and requests owners of its kit to “please check the Download Finder regularly to determine if new firmware is available for your drive.” Lovely sentiments, but of course most consumers have shown they’ve no idea about this stuff by failing to install much-needed new broadband router firmware despite colossal security holes.

Hackers spent at least a year spying on Mozilla to discover Firefox security holes – and exploit them – Hackers have known about unpublicized and unpatched critical security holes in the Firefox web browser for a year or more – all by invading Mozilla’s systems. The Mozilla Foundation admitted on Friday that a privileged account on Firefox’s Bugzilla bug-tracking software has been compromised since at least September 2014. Said account, and thus the miscreants who gained access to it, could view the crucial non-public details of security bugs in Firefox that programmers were working on fixing. Information on these vulnerabilities is withheld so people can’t write code to exploit the bugs to infect Firefox users with malware – if you have access to what the browser’s developers are trying to fix, you know exactly how to attack the software and infiltrate victims’ computers.

LinkedIn-based intelligence gathering campaign targets the security industry – A LinkedIn-based intelligence gathering campaign has been using fake LinkedIn profiles to map out the professional networks of IT security experts.

Spotify updates its privacy policy again, makes it more clear – Spotify updated its privacy policy in the recent past, and while many users went on to accept the updated terms (which are, by all accounts, fairly benign), some users expressed concern about some of the content Spotify may or may not be accessing. That all boiled down to a communication issue, says Spotify, which had quickly pushed out an apology when the uproar started. Now it is back with another updated privacy policy, and this one is more clear. Spotify announced the new (new) privacy policy on Thursday, saying that the confusion resulting from its last policy update was “understandable”.

Company News:

Getting Nokia’s groove back: Microsoft prepares new Windows 10 phones for India – Microsoft is preparing a new set of Windows 10-based, Nokia-branded smartphones to be released in India by the end of 2015, according to a report in the Economic Times. The devices will be some of the first designed from the ground up for Windows 10. The new operating system, which launched on PCs and tablets in late July, is expected to be rolled out for mobile devices in the next few months.

Google may return to China with a censored app store – Back in 2010, Google largely abandoned China over concerns of cyberattacks and surveillance. It was a bold, if commercially risky, move meant to protect users of Google’s services and assert Google’s values. The situation in China likely hasn’t changed in the years since, but it may simply be that Google can no longer ignore the country’s enormous technology market. Apple is already there with phones and an app store, after all, and China is expected to become its dominant market. Google and China didn’t exactly leave things on good terms, however, so it may need help getting back into the country. The Information reports that Google will lean heavily on partners, possibly such as Huawei, to include the Play Store with phones sold throughout China.

BlackBerry acquires Good Technology for $425 million, accelerates software plans – BlackBerry on Friday moved to bolster is enterprise mobility management prospects and consolidate the industry a bit with a deal to acquire Good Technology for $425 million in cash. The company has been working to reinvent itself as one primarily driven by software and the acquisition of Good will go a long way toward that goal. BlackBerry said Good will add $160 million in revenue in the first year. In a statement, BlackBerry said that Good will give it the assets to offer a unified mobility platform that can manage multiple platforms.

Games and Entertainment:

PC gaming flourishes at IFA as PC makers seek higher profits – Asus, Lenovo, and other PC makers are putting PC gaming hardware front and center among their hardware lineups. Why? Money, of course.

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With the Windows 10 Xbox app, the gaming console and PC are colliding.

The trailer of Netflix’s first movie will chill you to the bone – Netflix has just released the trailer of it’s upcoming movie, Beasts of No Nation, and the Idris Elba starrer has us on edge already. True Detective director Cary Fukunaga is behind the child soldier drama, which has recently been doing the film festival rounds where it has already received honors – we suspect Netflix will be pushing hard for an Academy Award nomination. The film stars Idris Elba as a war lord, and follows the story of Agu, portrayed by child actor Abraham, who is forced to become a child soldier during the civil war of an unnamed African country.

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Batman: Arkham Knight PC patch finally available – Batman: Arkham Knight was released a mess and now, finally, is getting a PC patch that will maybe (hopefully) squash all those bugs. The patch was recently up for beta testing, and on Thursday it was announced on Steam that those who’d already grabbed the Arkham Knight for PC game could now get the patch. If you didn’t get the game when it was released (its sales were pulled a short while later), you’ll still need to wait. When the PC game will be going back up for sale is not clear.

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Borderlands Getting Xbox One Backwards Compatibility – Good news, Borderlands fans. The original role-playing shooter will work on Xbox One when Microsoft releases its backwards compatibility update in November. Even better — if you’re a member of the Xbox One Preview program, you can try it out now. This means that if you own Borderlands for Xbox 360, you’ll be able to play it on your Xbox One — and you can carry over your previously saved files, game add-ons, and achievements.

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Comcast’s adding new features for football fans – Comcast is catering to the wants of its subscribers, at least the subscribers who enjoy football season. On Thursday, the service provider announced that it is making its X1 Sports mobile app “the ultimate football companion” for football season — for both the NCAA and NFL seasons. Comcast says it’ll be bringing users more football content than before, including everything from visualizations that make it easy to catch up on what has already gone down to real-time stats on games.

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World premiere of Steve Jobs movie gets rave reviews – Though opinions tend to vary quite drastically on Steve Jobs the man, it seems that everyone’s in agreement about Steve Jobs the movie, which has garnered a rapturous response from critics out of its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival this past weekend. Currently rocking a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, critics are unanimous in their praise for Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the visionary behind Apple, with David Ehrlich of Time Out calling his performance “miraculous”, while Gregory Ellwood of HitFix states that though Fassbender “doesn’t look or sound very much like Jobs”, his “impressive performance” still prompts “sympathy for an obviously stubborn egomaniac.”

Off Topic (Sort of):

Injected electronics: The next wave of wearable tech? – Forget Google Glass and that Fitbit you used to wear; the ultimate in wearable computing isn’t worn on your body, but embedded within it. With chips physically inserted into your body either attached to nerves or placed into muscles or skin, a new form of synergy between human and computer can occur. The medical uses are potentially huge. “The technology could be used to help recover tissues following a brain injury or help manage diabetes by providing an intelligent solution for controlling insulin levels,” says Collette Johnson, Medical Business Development Manager at Plextek Consulting. “Injectable electronics could also provide similar applications in chemical regulation of the brain for people with imbalances, as well as for individuals with growth hormone-related diseases. They could also be used to help control prosthetics by reacting to muscle motion.”

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Federal bust of long-running escort site Rentboy.com leads to protests – Rentboy.com isn’t the first website to be shut down for allegedly promoting an illegal business. But federal prosecutors may not have expected the backlash stemming from last week’s bust of the 19-year-old gay escorting site. Anger over the bust began with blog posts and Twitter diatribes, and yesterday it spilled onto the streets. A group of several dozen people marched in a small but well-organized protest in front of the US District Court in Brooklyn, home to the prosecutors who took down the site last week.

These Playing Cards Can Take A Bullet – If you ever wondered what you’d do if someone pulled a gun on you as you were playing poker, wonder no more. A group called “Sly Kly” are seeing pickup on its playing cards that are made out of Kevlar or carbon fiber…your choice. These materials, as you probably know, can take a bullet. I’m not the only person who feels like I need this added protection, as they’ve already raised $40,371 as of writing (way past their $25,000 goal). I’ve never shot a deck of regular playing cars, since I don’t really like guns and most certainly don’t have a gun, but I imagine that it’d put a hole right through every card. These Kevlar ones? Not so much. Have a watch as their deflection of bullets is put on display:

Vicious drone attack by sneaky chimp no accident say researchers – A chimp by the name of Tushi took down a drone in a report released this week by the journal Primates. This event took place this April but footage was just released today, complete with drone movement, pre-emptive chimpanzee strike action, and a 1.8-meter long stick. This attack was described as deliberate and planned. This shows more evidence that primates are able to think ahead and be creative in their toolmaking, so said scientists to the surprise of absolutely no-one.

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Israel Could Grow Into A Global Cannabis Startup Superpower – Israel is already a leading global player in clinical testing and Israeli growers have been leveraging those clinical trials to produce new strains for decades. These growers have developed unique grow-how to deliver a medical grade product. “Israeli growers have agreements with companies in USA, Canada, Czech Republic and Australia. Israel has the oldest and largest regulated medical cannabis programs in the world with over 22,000 registered patients. The Hebrew University holds a rich IP bank of cannabis patents. It is easier to conduct cannabis research and clinical studies in Israel than in any other country in the world,” said Saul Kaye, the founder of iCan and CannaTech, a yearly cannabis innovation and investor summit in Israel. Governments and multinationals are currently flocking to Israel where clinical testing faces fewer hurdles.

Feeling sad could change how you see colours – A blue mood may be more than just a figure of speech. Your mood may also affect how you perceive the world around you, according to a new study. A team of researchers has demonstrated that sadness could have an effect on the way we see colour. The team, led by psychology researcher Christopher Thorstenson of the University of Rochester, found that people in whom they had induced a sad mood were less accurate in identifying colours on the blue-yellow axis, compared to people who weren’t feeling sad.

Facebook beats Google as the best place to work in the UK – Glassdoor, the jobs website, has published a list of the top 25 places to work in the UK. Facebook came top and Google bottom, but most of the companies are involved in IT, and not all of them are based in London….

Something to think about:

“It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label.”

–     Barack Obama

Downloads:

Windows Firewall Control – Managing Windows Firewall is now easier than ever – Windows Firewall Control is a powerful application which extends the functionality of the Windows Firewall and provides quick access to the most frequent options of Windows Firewall. It runs in the system tray and allows user to control the native firewall easily without having to waste time by navigating to the specific part of the firewall. This is the best tool to manage the native firewall from Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, Server 2008, Server 2012. Windows Firewall Control offers four filtering modes which can be switched with just a mouse click:

High Filtering – All outbound and inbound connections are blocked. This setting blocks all attempts to connect to and from your computer.

Medium Filtering – Outbound connections that do not match a rule are blocked. Only the programs that you allow can initiate outbound connections.

Low Filtering – Outbound connections that do not match a rule are allowed. The user can block the programs he doesn’t want to allow initiating outbound connections.

No Filtering – Windows Firewall is turned off. Avoid using this setting unless you have another firewall running on your computer.

Program Features:

√ Intuitive and easy accessible interface in the system tray, next to the system clock.

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

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

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

√ Integrated support of creating, modifying and deleting Window Firewall rules.

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

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

√ Display invalid rules with the possibility to delete them very quickly.

√ Merge multiple similar rules or duplicate existing ones.

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

√ View recently allowed and blocked connections and create new rules from the Security log.

√ Choose if you want the program to start at user log on.

√ Import, export and restore all firewall rules or just the selected rules.

√ Protection to unauthorized uninstallation.

√ Possibility to restore previous settings at uninstallation.

√ Global hot keys are supported and various shortcut keys are available.

√ And many, many more. Just try it out.

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Process Lasso – Tame CPU hungry processes and take control of your PC!

Process Lasso is NOT yet another task manager. It is real-time process optimization and automation software. Priority optimization, affinity optimization, core optimization, automated rules, automated power profiles; you name it, and Process Lasso does it!

ProBalance – Keep your PC responsive during high CPU loads!

Gaming Mode 2.0 with Bitsum Highest Performance power plan – new

IdleSaver – Run at maximum performance while active; conserve energy when idle

SmartTrim – The first-ever intelligent RAM optimizer – new

Real-time CPU affinity and process priority optimization!

Automate and control process settings and power plans

Light-weight native code with negligible resource use

Efficient stand-alone core engine that can run as a service

Unique system responsiveness metric to quantify your experience!

Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and Windows 10

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Mind-blowing secrets of NSA’s security exploit stockpile revealed at last: Incredible document has to be seen to be believed – The NSA has revealed for the first time in public how it handles and reports critical unpatched security flaws its snoopers discover in software.

It is generally accepted the US taxpayer-funded spy agency has a private stash of exploitable programming blunders that it uses to infect and monitor its intelligence targets’ computers and phones.

Alerting app makers and IT giants to these holes, and getting them patched, could cost Uncle Sam some valuable information. It’s possible the agency tips off companies about the vulnerabilities once they’ve been successfully used against a target. The tech security world has been pressing to get some insight into the US government’s zero-day policy.

On Friday, we found out thanks to a successful Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Human Rights Groups Lambast Twitter For Banning Service That Tracked Politicians’ Deleted Tweets – Seventeen international human rights and transparency groups, including the Sunlight Foundation, EFF, Free Press, Open State Foundation, Human Rights Watch and others, are taking Twitter to task for its decision to ban the Politwoops tool last month, which was used to track politicians’ deleted tweets. Twitter had earlier banned the U.S. version of this tweet-tracking service in May, saying it was in violation of Twitter’s developer agreement. At the time, Twitter also noted that every user on its service should have the same rights to privacy.

But the organizations argue that what politicians say is a matter of public record, and therefore, they shouldn’t have the same expectations of privacy when using social media as ordinary citizens do.

Politwoops, for those unfamiliar, was a tool developed by Dutch organization, the Open State Foundation, over three years ago. The code was used to track politicians’ and diplomats’ remarks on Twitter – and their subsequent removal – in 30 countries around the world. In the U.S., a government transparency group called the Sunlight Foundation used that same code to create a U.S. version of the service.

Twitter shut down the U.S. Politwoops account in May, but dozens of other international accounts continued to operate until this August.

America’s crackdown on open-source Wi-Fi router firmware – THE TRUTH – In a proposed update [PDF] to the regulator’s rules over radiofrequency equipment, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would oblige manufacturers to “specify which parties will be authorized to make software changes.”

In addition, it proposes that “modifications by third parties should not be permitted unless the third party receives its own certification.”

While the intent is to make the FCC’s certification of the next generation of wireless equipment faster and more flexible, open source advocates were quick to notice that the rules would effectively force manufacturers to lock down their equipment and so remove the ability to modify software without formal approval from the US government. Such an approach goes directly against the open source ethos.

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French ISPs petition court to overturn secret foreign surveillance decree – Two French ISPs have asked France’s highest court to make public a secret government decree defining how French security services can monitor the Internet.

France’s foreign intelligence service, the Directorate General of Exterior Surveillance (DGSE) operates under rules set in a secret government decree in 2008. The existence of the decree was revealed by the magazine l’Obs in July this year.

The decree’s existence has not been denied by the government. While its content remains secret, it is known that it authorizes the DGSE to tap Internet communications entering or leaving French territory on a massive scale.

On Thursday, ISPs FDN and FFDN, along with online rights group La Quadrature du Net, revealed that they had filed two suits with the Council of State, seeking a summary judgment and suspension of the unpublished decree. The Council of State is, among other functions, France’s highest court for matters involving the administration.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 19, 2015

Cloud security: 10 things you need to know;  Confide, The Self-Destructing Messenger, Goes Live On Desktop;  Five free encryption apps to help secure your Android device;  Cleaning vs. Protection – Why you shouldn’t rely on malware cleaning;  Five more data recovery tools that could save the day;  33 Gmail Tips That Will Help You Conquer Email;  11 cool back-to-school tech tools;  Who’s upgrading to Windows 10?  Activate GodMode in Windows 10;  Google announces OnHub, a $200 router;  Microsoft issues emergency patch for critical IE bug;  Why you need to turn down your TV’s sharpness control;  Anti-privacy unkillable super-cookies spreading around the world;  Stephen Hawking’s speech software is now available for free;  Windows 10 won’t run some older CD-ROM games;  With Microsoft Sway, your next presentation doesn’t have to suck;  The 10 Best Gaming Monitors of 2015;  Your complete guide to the iOS 9 public beta;  Attackers increasingly abuse insecure routers;  The latest on Trump’s enemies list: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg;  UN demands NSA respect its privacy amid AT&T spying report.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Cleaning vs. Protection – Why you shouldn’t rely on malware cleaning – There’s a big difference between a protected PC and a PC that has been “cleaned”. If you rely on the latter, then you’re just waiting for disaster to strike. After all, you wouldn’t avoid wearing your seatbelt because a doctor can put you back together again, would you? Losing important data and shelling out for expensive consultations are real problems, but inconvenience is just the tip of the malware iceberg.

Cloud security: 10 things you need to know – It seems that every time the cloud is brought up in the enterprise, the conversation to follow is focused on how secure, or not secure, it really is. Some would have you believe the cloud is safer than on-premise, while others contend that it is the least safe place you could store your data. When thinking about cloud security, it’s ultimately up to each individual organization and its leadership to determine if a cloud deployment is the right strategy. However, cloud adoption is growing overall, and it is important to consider how it affects the organization. Here are 10 things you need to know about cloud security.

11 cool back-to-school tech tools – Equip yourself for a successful year with these campus tech tools, including an innovative note-taking pen, a laptop-friendly backpack and a clever space-saving power strip.

Survey highlights Mac vs. PC buying in back to school shopping trends – More than 4,000 shoppers surveyed give you their outlooks on Mac, PC, tablets, and more for Fall semester 2015.

Confide, The Self-Destructing Messenger, Goes Live On Desktop – Confide launched 18 months ago as a mobile app on iOS and Android, offering users the chance to send messages to each other that are only readable a few words at a time. When the user tapped on certain words in the message, they would appear and disappear again as the user’s finger moved across the entire message. Once the user chose to reply or exit out, the message disappeared forever. Now, that same functionality is coming over to the Desktop for both Mac and Windows as a native application.

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Five free encryption apps to help secure your Android device – Do your hats tend to fall into the tinfoil range? Are you afraid there is always somebody watching you? If so, rest assured that the Android ecosystem offers plenty of apps to soothe your paranoia. But which apps are the must-haves? Here are five apps you should immediately install and put to work. They’ll bring you peace in the knowledge that your mobile data is far more secure than those around you.

Five more data recovery tools that could save the day – Maybe it was hardware failure or user error or a malicious attack… but you don’t necessarily have to kiss that data goodbye. Here are some apps that just might get it back for you.

33 Gmail Tips That Will Help You Conquer Email – Gmail has come a long way in 11 years. It’s not perfect and occasionally sends ripples of outrage across its user base. But let’s be honest: with Gmail you get plenty for nothing. As a Web app, Gmail is a work in progress, with Google occasionally adding new functions. The amount of under-the-hood power in Gmail is pretty staggering. That’s what we’re here to delve into: all the tools that lay below the surface of the Gmail inbox.

Hack turns Amazon Dash Buttons into do anything switches – As seen previously, Amazon’s new Dash Buttons are physical equivalents of 1-click checkout options, allowing Amazon Prime members to order common household items with a single press of the WiFi-connected device. But one programmer has come with a fairly simple hack that turns the $5 buttons into something that can track just about any type of data point. In a detailed post on Medium, Edward Benson explains how he turned a Dash Button into a system that collects data on his baby.

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Activate GodMode in Windows 10 – If you’re sick of switching between the Settings menu and the Control Panel, searching for your lost settings, there is a way to access all settings and controls in one place: GodMode. GodMode is a dedicated folder that lets you see all control panels in one place — here, you’ll be able to do everything from adding clocks for different time zones to defragmenting your drives. And it’s a snap to set up.

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Screenshot: GodMode on a Windows 10 personal machine.

Who’s upgrading to Windows 10? – Windows 8.1 users have been half again as likely to upgrade to Windows 10 as their compatriots running Windows 7, data from a Web metrics vendor showed today, confirming expectations about who would upgrade first to Microsoft’s new operating system. The ascension of Windows 10’s usage share has largely come at the expense of Windows 8.1, according to measurements by Irish analytics company StatCounter. Of the combined usage share losses posted by Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 since the last full week before Windows 10’s July 29 launch, 57% has been attributed to Windows 8.1 deserters. Windows 7, meanwhile, contributed 37% of the losses by the last three editions, and Windows 8, 6%.

Microsoft Launches New Windows 10 Build, Vows To Keep Its Early Access Program Alive – Microsoft released a new Windows 10 build to its testing community today, noting in the process that the developers and fans in its ‘Insider’ program will continue to receive builds ahead of the general public. The gist is that after the formal launch of Windows 10 to the public — more on that here — Microsoft remains focused on placing new features and the like into its self-selected testing community. That choice fits with the company’s goal of updating Windows 10 on a chronic basis; if you are going to release consistently, you need testers. So, the Windows Insider program lives on.

With Microsoft Sway, your next presentation doesn’t have to suck – I’m not going to go through the mechanics of how to create a Sway story, but I can say the tool is fairly easy to use, even for an old guy like me. Sway combines features from PowerPoint, Movie Maker, and WordPress, among others, so that a person with limited multimedia skill can put together a storyboard in very little time. If you have an Office 365 subscription, then you already have Sway. If you don’t have Office 365, but you have Windows 10, you can get Sway for free from the Windows Store. Microsoft provides tutorials and examples to get you started, so Sway may be worth a try for your next presentation or report.

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Google announces OnHub, a $200 router focused on simplicity – OnHub’s key selling point really seems to be that it’s easy to set up and painless to troubleshoot. It connects to iOS and Android phones through what looks like a clean and stylish app, which tells owners how many devices are connected to OnHub and what kind of speeds they’re getting. Google says that the router’s circular design should allow it to have better penetration throughout a home (there are 13 antennas inside of it); the router will also automatically detect the best channel to broadcast on and includes support for 802.11ac and 5GHz Wi-Fi.

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Google Launches Standalone Hangouts Site – Need to chat with someone on Hangouts but don’t feel like keeping your Gmail open? Now there’s another way. Google this week launched a standalone Hangouts site where you can chat to your heart’s content right from your browser, without opening Gmail or Google+.

Why you need to turn down your TV’s sharpness control – The problem is that the sharpness control itself doesn’t really do anything to increase detail, and can often obscure that detail behind a mask of artificial-looking enhancement. You should almost always turn it all the way down, especially with high-quality sources like Blu-ray discs, HDTV broadcasts, video games, some HD streaming services, and so on. Here’s why.

Your complete guide to the iOS 9 public beta – The iOS 9 public beta is out, giving iPhone and iDevice users their first taste of Apple’s new operating system and a chance to locate and report bugs before it’s officially released later this year. After initiating a similar program in 2014 with Mac OS X Yosemite, this is the first year that Apple has made iOS betas available to people outside its paid Developer Program. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility and if you’re thinking of jumping in early, here’s what you need to know.

Yelp Wants You to Review the Government – Under a new agreement with Yelp, federal agencies can now claim their existing Yelp pages or launch new ones to respond officially to reviews, according to Luther Lowe, vice president of public policy at Yelp. “It’s exciting because it allows government agencies to take real-time feedback from citizens and act upon it in a way that helps our democracy operate better,” Lowe says.

Security:

Microsoft issues emergency patch for critical IE bug under active exploit – Microsoft has issued an emergency update for its Internet Explorer browser to patch a critical vulnerability attackers are actively exploiting to install malware on targeted computers. CVE-2015-2502, as the remote code-execution flaw is indexed, can be exploited when vulnerable computers visit booby-trapped websites or possibly when they open malicious HTML-based e-mails. The bug involves the way IE stores objects in memory and results in an error that corrupts memory contents. The vulnerability, which is present in all supported versions of IE, carries Microsoft’s top severity of critical for all desktop versions of Windows. The rating is one step lower for server OSes because IE on those versions runs in a restricted mode known as enhanced security configuration.

Another serious vulnerability found in Android’s media processing service – The latest vulnerability in Android’s mediaserver component was discovered by security researchers from antivirus firm Trend Micro and stems from a feature called AudioEffect. The implementation of this feature does not properly check some buffer sizes that are supplied by clients, like media player applications. Therefore it is possible to craft a rogue application without any special permissions that could exploit the flaw to trigger a heap overflow, the Trend Micro researchers said Monday in a blog post.

Anti-privacy unkillable super-cookies spreading around the world – study – At least nine telcos around the world are using so-called super-cookies to secretly monitor citizens’ online behavior, according to a new study. This super-cookie allows ad networks and media publishers to follow people across the internet even if they clear their cookies. It allows the networks to build up profiles on users’ habits, and pitch them targeted advertising, while the telcos take a cut. Access set up a website called Amibeingtracked.com, and monitored visits from 180,000 netizens on their phones. The group found that 15.3 per cent of visitors had the tracking headers installed from cellphone owners in Canada, China, India, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain, the US, and Venezuela.

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Attackers increasingly abuse insecure routers and other home devices for DDoS attacks – Attackers are taking advantage of home routers and other devices that respond to UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) requests over the Internet in order to amplify distributed denial-of-service attacks. A report released Tuesday by cloud services provider Akamai Technologies shows that the number of DDoS attacks is on the rise. During the second quarter of 2015 it increased by 7 percent compared to the previous three months and by 132 percent compared to the same period last year, the company’s data revealed. Overall, attackers launched less powerful attacks, but their duration was longer. Even so, the company saw 12 attacks that exceeded 100Gbps during the second quarter and five that peaked at more than 50 million packets per second.

Ashley Madison hackers appear to have followed through on threat to expose users – The information was first posted on the dark web, before the group behind the attacks — calling itself the Impact Team — announced its release on Reddit earlier this week. A searchable database has been constructed using the information, allowing interested parties to search for people by name or email address, and returning details including their sexual preference, contact details, body type, and fetishes. User passwords are encrypted with the bcrypt algorithm, suggesting that Ashley Madison at least took steps to secure that information while on file, but Robert Graham, CEO of Erratasec, told Wired that “hackers are still likely to be able to ‘crack’ many of these hashes in order to discover the account holder’s original password.”

IRS: Tax breach much worse than originally thought – The cyberattack on U.S. taxpayer data reported by the Internal Revenue Service earlier this year now appears to be much worse than originally thought, the agency announced Monday, with as many as 300,000 citizens now believed to be potential victims.

Company News:

Target pens settlement agreement with Visa over 2013 security breach – The $67 million Target will pay as part of the agreement will help cover the costs that banks were hit with as a result of the security breach. According to the Wall Street Journal, trade groups on behalf of credit unions and some community banks spent in excessive of $350 million having to reissues cards and patch up other troubles that surfaced as a result of the breach, and the Home Depot breach that followed.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Defends His Company After a Scathing New York Times Article – According to CNBC, Bezos said in the memo that the NYT article “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.” The article, published over the weekend by NYT, depicts an exceedingly harsh environment for employees at Amazon, which recently surpassed Walmart to become the world’s most valuable retailer. The story describes Amazon as a “bruising workplace” where employees are routinely mistreated and pitted against one another, all while working long hours.

Google Pushes Android One To Africa – Google is ramping up its Android One affordable smartphone program with a push into Africa. The first Android One smartphone for the region is being made by OEM Infinix, and is launching in Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Morocco today.

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Company pays FCC $750,000 for blocking Wi-Fi hotspots at conventions – A Wi-Fi service provider has agreed to pay the Federal Communications Commission $750,000 for blocking personal mobile hotspots used by convention visitors and exhibitors so they could avoid paying the company’s $80-per-day fee. Smart City Holdings automatically blocked users from using their personal cell phone data plans to establish mobile Wi-Fi networks, according to a statement published Tuesday by FCC officials. After the FCC took action against Smart City Holdings, the company pledged to stop the practice and pay the $750,000 fee to settle the matter. Marriott remains defiant: “We believe that the Opryland’s actions were lawful.” It’s the second enforcement action by the FCC taking aim at the blocking of FCC-approved Wi-Fi connections.

Alibaba setting up cloud datacentre, international HQ in Singapore – Alibaba’s cloud business, Aliyun, has announced plans to set up its international headquarters in Singapore as part of efforts to drive its global expansion. It also confirmed a new datacentre will be established in the city-state slated to launch next month, the company said. With its opening, the site will be the seventh such facility worldwide and second outside of China, after it launched its Silicon Valley site in March. The Singapore facility will provide a range of cloud offerings including relational database, open storage, and security services.

BuzzFeed Confirms $200M Investment From NBCUniversal – If the news sounds a little familiar, that’s because Vox Media announced a similar deal with NBCUniversal last week. At the time, Re/code (now owned by Vox) reported that BuzzFeed had received an investment of the same size, at a valuation of $1.5 billion. As with the Vox deal, BuzzFeed and NBCUniversal say they’ll be looking at possibilities for strategic partnerships.

Stephen Hawking’s speech software is now available for free – Stephen Hawking’s speech system has been released by Intel as open-source code. The company is hoping that developers will tinker with it and expand its application to a wider range of disabilities. The Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT) gives differently abled users the opportunity to use computers with very little movement, and was developed to help Hawking, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) communicate by translating his facial movements into text.

Games and Entertainment:

Windows 10 won’t run some older CD-ROM games, thanks to DRM – At the turn of the century, it was hard to find gamers—or gaming journalists, for that matter—who didn’t despise SecuRom and SafeDisc digital rights management copy protection on some of the top titles of that age. The DRM was accused of causing harware problems and were incredibly invasive on a user’s system. Those DRM mechanisms are gone now, but people still love to pop in their old Grand Theft Auto IV or Spore DRM-laden discs and play a little of these classics. In Windows 10, however, that’s no longer possible: Windows 10 does not allow the SecuRom and SafeDisc DRM schemes to run, which means the games will fail to start.

Microsoft remakes famous Gears of War trailer for upcoming Ultimate Edition – Gears of War was one of the first big exclusive hits for the Xbox 360 when it came out way back in 2006. The game has spawned several sequels, but now Microsoft is going back to pretty up the original. Gears of War Ultimate Edition is headed to the Xbox One later this month, and Microsoft has refreshed that famous 2006 Gears trailer to get people hyped for the remake.

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Wonky Pigeon lets gamers ‘destroy city with poo’ – Getting tired of playing games as a goat, but don’t find ordinary human characters interesting enough? Late last week a new game launched on Steam called Wonky Pigeon, and in it you play as a pigeon who, apparently, is able to channel his dark side (as if pigeons possess anything more). The gamer is tasked with flying above a city and, it appears, a farm of some sort and identifying targets — that is, people who are going about their own business until, out of nowhere, the pigeon unleashes its most foul weapon.

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How Ubuntu’s making it easier for Linux gamers to get the latest graphics drivers – Gaming’s not all about rocking the biggest, beefiest graphics card. Serious PC gamers know it’s important to have the latest graphics drivers from Nvidia or AMD , which can dramatically improve performance with newer games. That holds true on Linux, too—but it hasn’t been as easy to install the latest graphics drivers on Linux as it is on Windows-based systems. Ubuntu is fixing the problem.

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Borderlands 2 running on Ubuntu Linux.

This week’s new Xbox One and Xbox 360 Deals With Gold revealed – Microsoft has announced this week’s lineup of Deals With Gold offers for Xbox One and Xbox 360, with games like Batman: Arkham Knight, Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption, and more on sale. Take a look at the full lineup below. All deals are good through August 24. Those marked with an asterisk do not require an Xbox Live Gold subscription.

Grand Ages: Medieval preview: Economics, warfare, and economic warfare – Buy. Sell. Buy. Sell. Buy. Sell. Upgrade your town. Repeat. Grand Ages: Medieval is hardly going to win our entirely-fictional “Most Visceral Game” award. More than Europa Universalis, more than Total War, more than Civilization, Grand Ages: Medieval is like peering into the guts of an empire instead of sitting above it. Why is an emperor concerned with trade routes? I don’t know. But in this game, that’s life. Grand Ages: Medieval is about slowly building a massive machine out of piecemeal parts, and then tuning those pieces towards perpetual motion—towards self-correction and permanence.

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The 10 Best Gaming Monitors of 2015 – Whether you’re a serious PC gamer or a casual after-hours warrior, your hardware can mean the difference between victory and defeat. To get the most out of the latest first-person shooter (FPS), sports, racing, and other fast-action games, you’ll not only need a gaming PC with a powerful graphics solution, you’ll need a monitor that can display the action without subjecting you to blurred images, flicker, tearing, and other motion artifacts. In this guide we’ll help you choose a display that will give you an edge over your opponents while delivering a smooth, immersive gaming experience. We highlight the factor to consider when choosing a gaming monitor, and give our current favorites.

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Ubisoft: Rainbow Six Siege delayed until December – Ubisoft has announced that, due to gamer feedback, it has delayed the release of Rainbow Six: Siege until December 1 of this year, about a month and a half later than the originally planned release date of October 13. Ubisoft announced the news today in a statement, saying the delayed launch covers all planned regions, and that while it “wasn’t an easy decision”, it is one that is necessary based on the feedback Ubisoft has gotten thus far from gamers.

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High-quality 1080p Xbox One-to-PC streaming now live for all – The hack that unlocked high-quality streaming from the Xbox One to a Windows 10 PC is a hack no longer—Microsoft has pushed it to the world at large as part of its August update. You can now stream games from your Xbox One to Windows 10 devices in HD quality at 1080p and 60 frames per second, Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb said in a blog post on Tuesday. All you’ll need to do is go into the Xbox app in Windows 10, go to Settings > Game Streaming and set the video encoding level to Very High. Enabling this, however, requires both an update to the Xbox One console itself as well as the Windows 10 PC’s Xbox app.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Snowden Graphic Novel is a Dark, Funny Portrait of a Whistleblower – Laura Poitras’s Academy Award-winning documentary Citizenfour showed history being made as Snowden walked reporter Glenn Greenwald through the data. Later this year, Joseph Gordon-Levitt will star in Oliver Stone’s Snowden, a dramatization of the whistleblower’s life. And in a few weeks, you’ll be able to read Snowden, an upcoming illustrated biography by author and editorial cartoonist Ted Rall. Here’s what I thought of this darkly funny look at our ongoing surveillance nightmare.

The latest on Trump’s enemies list: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – If you’re not for Donald Trump, you’re against him. You’re also likely either a slob, a moron, an idiot or a loser. Please, these are not my epithets. You know where they come from. The Donald, as the Republican presidential hopeful is currently known, has a new enemy to go along with the likes of journalist Megyn Kelly, Sen. John McCain and, oh, all the others. This time it’s Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Behold! The Laptop Butler That Holds Your Drink To Your Laptop – As we approach the New Age, a thousand portents churn on the horizon. Dogs and cats begin living together. A man has found something he mislaid months before in a place he has already looked. And, as was written in days of old, the Laptop Butler would rise to hold our drinks to our laptops. But what is the Laptop Butler? It is a drink holder that attaches to your laptop. Why? So you can put your drink near your laptop and not use up your table space. The creators, Jeffrey A. Taylor and William H. Merritt, envision a world in which the Laptop Butler saves you from unwanted spills.

10 of the weirdest wheeled ways to get around (pictures) – Wheeled personal transportation options, from transforming roller-skate shoes to half-bikes, have never been wackier or more diverse than they are now.

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Post Modern Skateboard has no board.

New earbuds give you super-hearing – Instead of earbuds, which typically deliver music and voice sounds through a wire, and hearing aids, which boost certain frequencies (lost to the elderly who listened to loud music through earbuds in their misspent youths), the new hearables — wearable devices that live in your ears — enable the customization of environmental sound. You can cherry-pick which noises you want to hear better, and which you want silenced. Here’s what you’ll hear.

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Drinkable book has pages that filter water and kill bacteria – We in the developed world take for granted the infrastructure that delivers clean, safe water directly to our homes, something that was an unthinkable luxury until quite recently in human history. In many areas of the world, sources of water are much less regulated, and can contain dangerous levels of bacteria. A researcher from Carnegie Mellon University is working on book to help people make drinking water safer. The book doesn’t just deliver information, though. It also filters water. This project is the brainchild of Dr. Teri Dankovich, currently at Carnegie Mellon, but much of the work for this technology was done at McGill University and the University of Virginia.

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Will Solar Panels Save You Money? Ask Google’s Project Sunroof – Dubbed “Project Sunroof,” Elkin’s program uses high-resolution aerial mapping to help calculate the solar energy potential of local residents’ roofs. Currently being tested in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, and Boston, Project Sunroof utilizes the same technology in use by Google Earth. Folks living in the initial test areas can visit the Project Sunroof website: Enter your address, and the service will estimate how much you might save by adding solar panels to your house.

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Something to think about:

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

–     Aldous Huxley

Downloads:

Tor – Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.

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Why Anonymity Matters – Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.

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PaperScan Scanner Software – PaperScan Scanner Software is a powerful TWAIN & WIA scanning application centered on one idea: making document acquisition an unparalleled easy task for anyone.

But it also provides advanced features like OCR, annotations or color detection.

Universal Scanning Application

Automatic Color Detection

Import Images and PDF documents

Annotations

Image Adjustments and Enhancements

Various File Formats Saving

Batch Scanning With Separator Sheets Support

Quick-Scan Mode

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UN demands NSA respect its privacy amid AT&T spying report – The United Nations has asked member states to “respect” its privacy amid reports it had been extensively spied on by the US government.

Almost exactly two years after it emerged that the National Security Agency was conducting surveillance on the United Nations, a report published in tandem by The New York Times and ProPublica added new details.

Documents provided by Edward Snowden showed the US government was getting help from AT&T, which supplied the United Nations’ headquarters in New York with internet and phone services.

The report said AT&T’s alleged relationship with the NSA under the “Fairview” program helped the intelligence agency tap into phones, emails, and infiltrate the video-conferencing systems. Earlier reports said UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s talking points to President Barack Obama were were also seen through the Blarney email-grabbing program.

The United Nations, the global governing body for the world’s governments, is examining “how best to respond,” UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci told reporters on Monday.

White House Recruits Tech Troops to Serve Government ‘Tour of Duty’ – The American government finally has its own tech army—and it’s looking to recruit.

President Obama signed an executive order on Monday to officialize the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIFs) program, a growing national service initiative that recruits technologically-minded Americans as troops to work alongside federal employees to create products and services for a dozen government agencies.

The executive order, which formally establishes the three-year-old fellowship within the General Services Administration, is the culmination of Obama’s efforts to improve upon the federal government’s outdated IT and web services. So far, the roughly 100 fellows who’ve participated in the competitive service program have tackled issues like the Healthcare.gov meltdown, the Veterans Affairs scandal and police reform.

“Almost every job or career comes to the government, except technology. And when they do come, they’re buried in the IT team,” says U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Megan Smith, who left her job as a Google exec last fall to spearhead the nation’s technology policy.

Smith, the third person and first woman to hold the post, said the idea of tech service “hadn’t occurred to [her]” until she began emailing with former U.S. CTO Todd Park, the fellowship’s founder. “The tech folks haven’t always had a welcome seat at the table,” says Smith, who, like Park, maintains that the federal government can be as good an incubator for innovation as Silicon Valley—with the right people. The program does its own recruiting, but also has an application available on its website.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 19, 2015

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

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 – August 12, 2015

How to secure Windows 10: The paranoid’s guide;  Microsoft Windows 10: Five free apps you should download;  New rules for buying back-to-school laptops;  Google restructures, naming parent company Alphabet;  Four apps better than your phone’s built-in address book;  Add Star Wars emojis to your text messages;  LastPass makes its password management apps free on smartphones;  7 top Linux desktop environments compared;  Thirty five Flash Player holes plugged;  Facebook security hole remains open months after report;  Microsoft rolls out second cumulative update for Windows 10;   Facebook Says This Is How We Laugh on the Internet;  Dual-booting Linux with Windows: What you need to know;  Snapchat Just Fixed the Worst Thing About its App;  Pushbullet adds end-to-end encryption for SMS;  Researchers wirelessly hack a Corvette’s brakes using an insurance dongle;  Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 beta has 3 maps and 7 modes;  PlayStation Plus subscription prices to increase in UK;  Driving Your Car Will Soon Be Illegal;  Xbox One DVR to launch in US, UK, and Canada;  The NSA Playset: Espionage tools for the rest of us.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to secure Windows 10: The paranoid’s guide – I think some people’s fears about Microsoft looking over your shoulder are over-the-top. And, I speak as someone who looks at Microsoft with a great deal of suspicion. What you need to realize is that Microsoft has made Windows 10 both a desktop and a cloud operating system. Adding cloud functionality means that when you run Windows 10 you’ll be sharing far more information with Microsoft and its partner customers than ever before. For example, while Windows 10 doesn’t have a keylogger it does collect your keystrokes and voice to improve spell-checking and voice recognition. Before having a fit about this, keep in mind that every cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) program does this to one degree or another.

Microsoft Windows 10: Five free apps you should download – With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft decided to cut and mangle some beloved, long-standing features available in previous versions of its operating system. Windows Media Center is gone and Solitaire now shows you full-screen ads, which you have to pay to get rid of. That’s not to mention the outcry over Microsoft releasing software to play DVDs that costs $14.99 through the Windows Store. Fortunately, you can ignore these shenanigans – as there is plenty of free software out there to fill the gaps in Microsoft’s new OS.

Microsoft: glitch preventing Windows 10 store downloads will be fixed soon – While Microsoft’s much-anticipated (or dreaded, depending on your situation) rollout of Windows 10 has been fairly smooth for most users, this weekend a bug surfaced that prevented some from being able to download app updates from the Windows Store. Users that are affected say they haven’t been able to sign into the store, preventing them from either downloading new apps or getting updates for apps they already have installed.

New rules for buying back-to-school laptops – With that new school year may come the need for a new laptop, and time- and cash-strapped parents are often left confused and scrambling. How much do you really need to spend on a school-minded PC? And how can you make sure you’re getting a system that will go the distance? (Hopefully just four years, if you’re packing a kid off to college.) Fear not: Even with hundreds of options, picking the right laptop (or perhaps…tablet?) is easy if you follow a few simple guidelines.

Pushbullet adds end-to-end encryption for SMS, copy and paste, and notification mirroring – The company is ramping up its security by adding optional end-to-end encryption. This means your data is encrypted before it leaves your phone, and decrypted when it gets to your other devices. It’s a good layer of security to include, as all those SMS messages and notifications contain a lot of personal data. The encryption also applies to Pushbullet’s ability to copy and paste between devices. To set it up, you need to go to Settings on every device where you’re using Pushbullet select Enable encryption, then enter a password.

Four apps better than your phone’s built-in address book – The address book is at the core of your phone. Since most of us don’t memorize phone numbers anymore, it’s a crucial tool for keeping touch with friends and family through phone calls, texts and emails. Unfortunately, the built-in contacts app that comes with the iPhone or Android phones hasn’t changed in years. It can be frustrating to edit, fraught with duplicates and lacking the most up-to-date information. Luckily, there are several address book apps out there that offer a better alternative with innovative features and modern designs.

LastPass makes its password management apps free on smartphones – LastPass, one of the more popular password management solutions next to 1Password, is making its smartphone apps free to use. “Now, if you get started with LastPass on your Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone, you’ll have completely free access from your smartphone, and can even sync across smartphones for free,” the company wrote in a blog post today. “The same is true for tablets, if that’s where you get started.”

Get Started on LastPass for Free – If you’ve been meaning to try the password manager LastPass, now is the perfect opportunity, because the service is currently free to start. Under the new pricing model, you can get started with LastPass for free on any device, including smartphones, tablets, or desktops. Sync data between similar devices, like two smartphones or two tablets. But if you want to sync between two different devices—between phone and desktop, for example—you’ll need to upgrade to premium.

Microsoft introduces Floatie for OneNote on Android – Microsoft has added a new feature to the OneNote application for Android that allows users to access their notes from any where across the phone with the help of floating icons.

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Microsoft rolls out second cumulative update for Windows 10 – Microsoft has rolled out another cumulative update for Windows 10 and you can download it now by checking Windows Update – but what’s new in this release is not yet known.

Snapchat Just Fixed the Worst Thing About its App – Ephemeral messaging app Snapchat knows its demographic well. Teens are still at the mercy of their parents’ financial decisions, and that can sometimes mean they don’t have a whole bunch of mobile data to use up every month. Luckily for data-strapped teens (and everyone else), the company rolled out a new data-conserving feature Monday. “Travel Mode,” which “disables auto-loading of content like Stories when you’re using mobile data,” as it’s described in the app.

Add Star Wars emojis to your text messages – The official Star Wars app now features over 50 adorable characters, ships and more. Animated GIFs, too! Here’s how to text them.

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Freedom of choice: 7 top Linux desktop environments compared – Linux distros usually have a default desktop environment, but there are a slew of desktop environments available to use. Heck, Ubuntu alone offers nine official alternate “flavors” with different desktop configurations. None of these desktop environments is better than another. They have different aesthetics, functionality, and features. They may perform better or worse on different hardware. Only you can decide which you prefer. Curious? Here’s a run-down of some of the most popular Linux desktop environments.

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Dual-booting Linux with Windows: What you need to know – Windows 10 isn’t the only (kind of) free operating system you can install on your computer. Linux can run from just a USB drive without modifying your existing system, but you’ll want to install it on your PC if you plan on using it regularly. Installing a Linux distribution alongside Windows as a “dual boot” system will give you a choice of either operating system each time you start your PC. It’s the ideal way for most people to install Linux, as you can always get back to a full Windows system with a reboot.

Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi: What you need to know – Microsoft has released a version of Windows 10 for the credit card-sized machine. But just what can you do with it?

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Windows 10 IoT Core on the Raspberry Pi / Image: Microsoft

Facebook Says This Is How We Laugh on the Internet – Well now you can tell exactly how your e-laughing compares with the average joe’s, after Facebook published an analysis on it’s research blog. Inspired by a New Yorker blog post about the various ways we indicate laughter online, researchers, “analyzed de-identified posts and comments posted on Facebook in the last week of May with at least one string of characters matching laughter,” the post reads. “We did the matching with regular expressions which automatically identified laughter in the text, including variants of haha, hehe, emoji, and lol.” Here’s what they found:

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Facebook

Google Launches First Beta Of Its Zync Visual Effects Renderer On Google Cloud Platform – Google, the largest subsidiary corporation of Alphabet, wants movie studios to use its cloud to render their special effects. Last August, Google acquired Zync, a visual effects rendering service that allows studios and independent artists to render their works in the cloud. Today, the company announced that it will open up the first beta of Zync on its Cloud Platform next week on August 20.

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Study: Ad-blocking software use is rising at breakneck speed – AdBlock and apps like it are the bane of ad-supported websites, and an occasional bit of browser extension-based guilt for users. On one hand, no one wants to deal with ads, at least not the poorly utilized ads found on many websites. At the same time, many users recognize that their favorite websites probably depend on those advertisement dollars, and so they may disable AdBlock for certain websites. Many ad-blocking users don’t bother doing the latter, however, and that makes a new report from Adobe and PageFair particularly worrisome for companies.

Security:

Thirty five Flash Player holes plugged (and there’s one quick fix) – Adobe has patched 35 security vulnerabilities in its Flash Player, all of one of which could lead to unexpected code execution. The fixes relate to vulnerabilities including 15 use-after-free, eight memory corruption, and five type confusion bugs. Most flaws have been slapped with the panic severity rating of one, meaning someone is or probably will soon hack the holes. Linux and Chrome OS users can afford to ignore the patch issuance for a while with the respective holes being rated a boring severity score of three. Microsoft’s Edge and its older browser sisters Internet Explorer 11 and 10 get the same Player version update as Google Chrome, and the Desktop runtime. Linux and AIR offerings are also fixed.

Windows 10 gets its first set of security patches – For August, Microsoft’s monthly round of security patches contains five bulletins that cover Windows 10, as well as a bulletin that covers the new Edge browser that runs on Windows 10. Overall, Microsoft released 14 security bulletins for this month’s Patch Tuesday—which occurs on the second Tuesday of each month. Three of the bulletins were marked as critical, meaning that they should be patched as quickly as possible.

Researchers wirelessly hack a Corvette’s brakes using an insurance dongle – Researchers at the University of California at San Diego have found a way to wirelessly hack thousands of vehicles by exploiting the on-board diagnostics (or OBD) devices that insurance companies use to monitor speed and location. In a video posted to YouTube (seen above), they were able to activate the windshield wipers and engage or disengage the brakes of a 2013 model Corvette by sending an SMS message to the OBD dongle’s cellular radio. More details about the vulnerability will be revealed at the Usenix security conference today, according to Wired.

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Facebook security hole remains open months after report – Android users can relax. This isn’t about you this time. This time, it’s Facebook’s turn to take the hot seat. Not that it has completely left the chair anyway. According to Reza Moaiandinm, Technical Director of marketing company SALT.agency, Facebook has a gaping security hole that leaves it wide open to attack and its users vulnerable to phishing attempts. While news of such security lapses aren’t exactly new, especially with Facebook involved, Moaiandinm’s beef stems from the fact that Facebook has seemingly done nothing months after he reported the exploit.

Intel left a fascinating security flaw in its chips for 16 years – here’s how to exploit it – A design flaw in Intel’s processors can be exploited to install malware beneath operating systems and antivirus – making it tough to detect and remove. The blunder was introduced in 1995, in the Pentium Pro. It is hardwired into the silicon, and has been staring kernel-level programmers in the face for years. The good news is that Intel spotted the howler in its processor blueprints, and corrected the issue: chips built from January 2011 and onwards (Sandy Bridge Core CPUs and later) are not affected.  A trusty Linux box from the previous decade that’s still plodding away, an office of old PCs, or a relative’s aging laptop, are the sorts of computers at risk of attack via this vulnerability. Your fancy new gaming rig, your virtual machine in the cloud or on your workstation, and that office PC bought two years ago in the last refresh, are immune.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter band together to battle child pornography – Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Twitter are working with the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to implement a new system that will help detect and block images of child pornography online. IWF, a charitable foundation, has introduced a new technology that enables it to tag images of sexual abuse with distinct hashes — essentially codes that act like a digital fingerprint. The hash is generated by an algorithm; once assigned to an image, it’s unique to it, making it easy to identify a specific image against a list of offending hashes. The IWF keeps a record of all the hashes, which it has only shared with the five tech companies so far, but plans to roll out to other IWF members soon.

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Wearsafe Is A Connected Panic Button For The App Generation – At the Disrupt NY hackathon this year the winning hack was a live-streaming app called Witness whose team’s pitch was a desire to be the panic button for the mobile age. But what about sticky situations where you don’t have time to fire up an app? That’s where Connecticut-based startup Wearsafe Labs is hoping to step in, with a hardware panic button also updated for the app era.

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IBM discovers Android serialization vulnerability allows arbitrary code execution – In the latest security issue to plague Android, IBM has discovered a vulnerability in Android and some third-party SDKs that allows malicious code to elevate its privileges to the system user.

Company News:

Google restructures, naming parent company Alphabet – Google will become a subsidiary of a new parent company called Alphabet, under a massive restructuring arrangement designed to let the company’s businesses operate more efficiently. Alphabet will include a group of companies, the largest of which will be Google. Other efforts will be run separately but apart from Google, including health efforts such as Life Sciences, which works on glucose-sensing contact lenses, and Calico, focused on longevity. Alphabet will also include Google’s advanced X labs, which handles projects like Google’s self-driving cars and Wi-Fi balloons. Under the changes, the main Google business will be slimmed down to include search search, ads, maps, apps, YouTube and Android. Other businesses, like Calico as well as Nest, Fiber and Google’s investing arms, will be managed separately. All will be under Alphabet.

Google’s Larry Page explains the new Alphabet – Here’s the full text of the letter from Google CEO Larry Page announcing his company’s restructuring.

Apple Shares Tumble 5% Amid China Concerns – Apple suffered a 5 percent drop in its share price Tuesday as Wall Street reacted strongly to news from China that the government is further devaluing the yuan. The currency devaluation is likely to increase import costs of devices for Apple. The announcement from China’s central bank that official guidance for the yuan would be reduced 2 percent to 6.2298 yuan per dollar, its lowest point in three years, sent the $700 billion tech giant’s shares tumbling. A drop worth tens of billions in market cap value.

Facebook Brings Auto-Play Video Ads To Apps In Its Mobile Ad Network – These new ad formats include auto-play video, as well as its multi-image Carousel Ads that can give deeper looks at a product or tell stories, Dynamic Product Ads that retarget users with items they’ve considered buying elsewhere on the web, and more traditional interstitial Click-To-Play Video Ads. Some users might find these flashy ads annoying, but at least they’re well-targeted and run properly.

Facebook is making an app that will send breaking news alerts to your phone – The stand-alone app is still in the early stages, but it will reportedly ask users to choose which publications they want to receive notifications from, and specific topics or “stations” they want to receive news about. Then, when news in those preselected topics breaks, the publications can send a push notification of up to 100 characters to users. All notifications sent through Facebook’s app will link out to that publication’s website. Only a select number of publications will be available on the app, according to Business Insider.

Symantec Sells Veritas Division To Private Equity Group For $8B – Symantec announced today that it had sold its Veritas division to The Carlyle Group, a Washington, DC-based private equity firm for $8 billion in cash. The move comes after Symantec, mostly known as a computer security company, announced it was splitting into two separate publicly traded companies last fall. The first was going to be Symantec, which as you might expect focused on security and the second was Veritas, which concentrated on information management. It was named for a storage vendor that merged with Symantec back in 2005.

Judge orders Cablevision to stop calling Verizon a liar – A federal judge has ordered Cablevision to stop running advertisements that accuse Verizon of lying about offering its Fios broadband customers the fastest in-home Wi-Fi service. On Friday, Judge Gary Brown threw out Cablevision’s lawsuit against Verizon, which was filed in January, accusing Verizon of misrepresenting its service. Then on Monday, he ruled in favor of Verizon’s request for a temporary restraining order to put a stop to ads Cablevision has been running in the New York City metro area accusing Verizon of lying about its broadband Internet speeds, the quality of its DVR, service appointments and other aspects of its service.

Firefox sticks it to Microsoft, redirects Cortana searches in Windows 10 – After blasting Microsoft’s attempts to set Edge as the default browser in Windows 10, Mozilla is enjoying some sweet revenge by steering Firefox users away from Bing. With the newly-released Firefox 40, users no longer have to use Bing for web searches from Cortana on the Windows 10 taskbar. Instead, Firefox will show results from whatever search engine the user has chosen as the default. Using Firefox isn’t the only way to replace Cortana’s Bing searches with Google or another search engine. But Firefox is currently the only browser that does so without the need for third-party extensions. (It wouldn’t be surprising, however, if Google follows suit.)

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Chinese vendors triple smartphone share in India – Chinese vendors tripled shipments year-on-year in the second quarter in the Indian market, indicating that low-cost vendors are posing a challenge to global players like Apple in a very price-sensitive market. The Chinese vendors have been successful by a combination of strategies, including online flash sales and by pushing low-cost 4G phones, priced at between US$100-150, a market that was unattended by Indian and global vendors, according to research firm IDC.

Foxconn to invest $5B to set up first of up to 12 factories in India – As part of its plan to set up to 12 manufacturing facilities in India by 2020, contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group is investing US$5 billion in a factory and other facilities in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. The Indian government has been coaxing foreign companies, including smartphone makers, to set up manufacturing units in India under its “Make in India” program. A number of smartphone makers are planning to make the devices in the country, with Chinese maker Xiaomi expected to announce its first phone manufactured in India on Monday.

Games and Entertainment:

Why Everybody Should Play Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture – I can tell you the world wrought here looks as beautiful as a this-gen console game should, a sometimes linear, sometimes open swathe of blissful countryside you stroll freely through, espying mist-capped valleys punctuated by bus stops, phone booths, smoking ashtray-filled pubs, vast barns, spooky-looking domed towers, unpeopled flats, golden pastures choked with gently swaying strands of wheat and towering windmills. The weird stuff tends to happen as you amble along and trip (or interact with) trigger points.

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The Chinese Room / Sony

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 beta has 3 maps and 7 modes – Activision today released a new trailer for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer beta, which provides the first details about what fans can expect from it. As you can see in the video, the beta will have at least three maps and seven modes. The video specifically says three-plus maps and seven-plus modes are included, suggesting more of each may be added later. Players will also get to check out Black Ops III’s new movement system using eight different “Specialist” characters. You’ll also be able to test out Black Ops III’s weapon customization tools, including the paintshop.

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Hulu says it won’t release its new original shows in binge-watch form – Hulu has no plans to start catering to binge-watchers with its original programming, preferring instead to release new episodes one week at a time. Hulu’s strategy runs counter to that of Netflix and Amazon, which release entire new seasons of their original shows all at once. While this allows viewers to easily get hooked by watching several episodes in one sitting, the trade-off is that any social media buzz around a show can die off quickly after the premiere. For Netflix and Amazon, the answer to that problem is to simply release more original content.

Xbox One DVR to launch in US, UK, and Canada – Microsoft announced last week that the Xbox One DVR would initially land in three countries at launch. Those three countries are the US, Canada, and the UK. The announcement was made at the Gamescom conference in Cologne. The launch is set for an unspecified time next year with more details coming closer to launch.

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PlayStation Plus subscription prices to increase in UK – Bad news for PlayStation gamers in the UK today: the subscription prices for two of the PlayStation Plus plans are increasing next month. The one-month option is rising from £5.49 to £5.99, and the three-month plan is going from £11.99 to £14.99. The silver lining in all of this? The price for the one-year subscription is staying the same, at £39.99. This last option was already the best value, now it will be even more so.

Off Topic (Sort of):

It’s time for PC companies to copy one of Apple’s best features – I like PC hardware. OK, that’s sort of a lie; PC hardware infuriates me no end, because I can never find a motherboard with precisely the set of features I want, but it’s the kind of infuriation that comes of having high expectations. My main PC is a self-built desktop system, and Apple simply doesn’t have a desktop system offering the kind of longevity and flexibility that I want. PC hardware does, and this is great. But Apple from time to time does some things which are really neat, and sometimes I find myself looking at those things and yearning for them. Operating system installation and disaster recovery is one of those things.

Defusing The Internet Of Things Time Bomb – “Smart” devices are all the buzz, whether in the connected home (thermostats, lightbulbs, garage door openers, locks and various appliances) or new wearable devices. They promise convenience along with improved control and efficiency in our lives. But, as highlighted by the recent hacking of automobiles, connectivity can come at a significant cost. Consumers cringe as the barrage of data breaches continues — from major retailers to health insurers to government agencies, hundreds of millions of records are now exposed and there seems to be no end in sight. Will we face a similar future with some of our most personal and sensitive information (where we are, the status of our home, our latest health vitals), or even with our physical security?

Does too much technology make a car artificial? – Two trends are interacting in the car world right now, and I’m fascinated by the questions being raised as a result. Computers are in control of everything, modulating our control inputs and interpreting our intent. For example, between your foot and the pedals of a hybrid are complex software routines that decide how to juggle internal combustion engines and conventional brakes with electric motor-generator units when it comes to stopping and going. Cheap, rugged, and powerful electronics can let an engineer solve a suspension or engine problem with some code instead of mechanical fix. Is that a good thing, or is the solution an artificial one?

Driving Your Car Will Soon Be Illegal – Driving a car will be illegal by 2030. Our economy will be severely impacted as millions of truck drivers, cabbies and delivery people are put out of work. In this era of endless innovation, man’s century-long relationship with the automobile is about to be permanently disrupted.

Climate change deniers, like fanboys, don’t care about your science – Climate change is a hot topic in politics. That climate change is happening and that humanity has something to do with it isn’t up for debate anymore. How to deal with it is. Still, climate change has its deniers. You’d think that these people could be convinced with a bit of education. If they knew what the scientists knew then surely they’d change their minds. That’s what I thought, anyway — it’s not true. In fact, it’s the opposite. Or so says the research from Dan Kahan, professor of law and psychology at Yale, and member of the Cultural Cognition Project which tries to explain how we come to hold our beliefs.

Something to think about:

“You can’t outwit fate by trying to stand on the sidelines and place little side bets about the outcome of life. Either you wade in and risk everything to play the game, or you don’t play at all. And if you don’t play, you can’t win.”

–     Judith McNaught

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The NSA Playset: Espionage tools for the rest of us – When Der Spiegel and Jacob Appelbaum published leaked pages of the National Security Agency’s ANT Catalog—the collection of tools and software created for NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division—it triggered shock, awe, and a range of other emotions around the world. Among some hardware hackers and security researchers, it triggered something else, too—a desire to replicate the capabilities of TAO’s toolbox to conduct research on how the same approaches might be used by other adversaries.

In less than 18 months since the catalog’s leak, the NSA Playset project has done just that. The collection boasts over a dozen devices that put the power of the NSA’s TAO into the hands of researchers. Project creator Michael Ossmann—a security researcher, radio frequency hardware engineer, and founder of Great Scott Gadgets—detailed the tools at a presentation during the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas last week, and he talked with Ars more about it this past weekend at DEF CON 23.

Many of the software components of the 50-page ANT catalog were things that had already been developed by security researchers. Some of the discovered capabilities appeared to stem from off-the-shelf hardware (or its equivalent) and software similar to existing tools; they were simply combined in a package suitable for spy work. But other pieces of hardware in the NSA’s catalog appeared to have no openly available equivalent—such as wireless bugs planted in computer cables or connectors. Some of those bugs were radio “retro-reflectors,” wiretaps that only broadcast data when hit by a directed radio signal. (It’s similar in concept to “The Thing”—the infamous bug Soviet spies planted inside the US Embassy in Moscow.)

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How Japan’s Privacy Visor fools face-recognition cameras – If you’re worried about Big Brother monitoring you from security cameras, Japan has developed eyewear that can keep you anonymous.

The Privacy Visor consists of a lightweight, wraparound, semitransparent plastic sheet fitted over eyewear frames. It’s bulky and not exactly stylish, but it could have customized designs.

It’s meant to thwart face-recognition camera systems through a very simple trick. It reflects overhead light into the camera lens, causing the area around the eyes to appear much brighter than it normally does.

That’s enough to trick standard face-recognition systems, such as the Viola-Jones object detection framework, according to the National Institute of Informatics (NII), which has been developing the visor for years.

At a demo on Tuesday, NII staffers showed how a face-recognition program can easily identify someone by comparing video input to a database of head shots. The system also works when the subject is wearing sunglasses.

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Russia threatening nation-wide Reddit ban over drug posts – The Russian government has said it’s considering a nation-wide block on the social website Reddit over concerns about easily accessible information on growing and acquiring drugs. One government agency has said it’s tried contacting Reddit about removing such posts, but they haven’t gotten a response. Oddly enough, the government says it was prompted to take action because of complaints from users. Because surely people go right to the government when they see things on the internet, as this couldn’t be a case of Russia wanting to censor information.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 12, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – August 7, 2015

10 Simple, Time-Saving Computer Tricks;  Microsoft vacates moral high ground for the data slurpers’ cesspit;  Why Windows 10 isn’t really free;  Best Buy fails to erase some returned devices before re-selling them;  A Week with Windows 10: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly;  Attention students and teachers: Check if you can get Office 365 for free now;  Send self-destructing messages with Kaboom;  Law banning secret filming of animal abuse on farms ruled unconstitutional;  Design flaw in Intel chips opens door to rootkits;  Hacker-friendly Chrysler hauled into court for class-action showdown;  Apple has new iOS 9 and watchOS 2.0 betas for you;  Meet RollJam, the $30 device that jimmies car and garage doors;  12 Tips All Diehard Xbox 360 Fans Should Know;  Pornhub is emulating Netflix with its new premium streaming service;  Mozilla urges users to update Firefox with file stealing exploit in wild;  Microsoft, Salesforce.com join $5.3 billion Informatica buyout;  Should Software Companies Be Legally Liable For Security Breaches?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 Simple, Time-Saving Computer Tricks – When I watch inexperienced computer users scroll a Web page using the down arrow on their keyboard or look for specific information in a PDF by running their eyes down each page, I realize just how many tiny tricks and tips there are that make more experienced computer users faster at what they do. Here are ten of those tricks that anyone can—and should—learn. Chances are you know some of them, but even if only a couple of them are new to you, it’s worth checking out the list and the video below.

Attention students and teachers: Check if you can get Office 365 for free now – Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it was giving away Office 365 subscriptions to New York City public school students, and later it opened up the program to students in dozens of countries around the world. Now, any qualified student or faculty member can get a free Office 365 Education plan, which gives you unfettered access to Word, Excel and Powerpoint, plus the ability to collaborate with others in real-time using those programs. Here’s how to get it.

A Week with Windows 10: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – It seems almost surreal to think that it has already been a week since Microsoft unleashed Windows 10 to the world. Or at least to those not privy to Insider previews. In that short span of time, a lot has already been said about the latest, and supposedly the last, version of Windows. As expected, not all of them are good, but not all of them are bad either. Here are some of the top five things you can expect to experience when your time finally comes to upgrade.

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How to stop Windows 10 from using your PC’s bandwidth to update strangers’ systems – By default, Windows 10 turns your PC into a server for distributing updates to other machines. Here’s how to make it stop.

Send self-destructing messages with Kaboom – Kaboom is a free app that only requires those who want to send self-destructing messages to download the app. Once downloaded, you can send text and picture messages, complete with a countdown timer that dictates when the message will disappear forever. Not sure how long you want a message to remain active? You can also set a message to expire after a number of views. The company behind the app, Anchor Free, claims the disappearing act also includes deleting the content from its servers once the message expires. You can download the app for free for either iOS or Android.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

7 Apps to Help You Get Stuff Done Around the House – These seven apps can help you keep track of your various household chores and projects, so you can spend more time getting things done and less time keeping track of them.

Facebook gives businesses more ways to privately message users – Businesses using the site now have more ways to send private messages, through Messenger, to Facebook users who interact with businesses’ pages or ads. Previously, businesses could only respond to users’ messages in the way they were initiated, either through a comment or a private message. Now, if a user leaves a comment on a Facebook page, the page owner can respond privately through Messenger.

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Apple has new iOS 9 and watchOS 2.0 betas for you – Apple has released iOS 9 beta 5 for iPhone and iPad, as well as watchOS 2 beta 5 for Apple Watch, as it nears the final versions this fall. The new software, which requires either an Apple developer account or beta program membership in order to access, paves the way for features like WiFi Calling on the iPhone across more carriers, as well as smarter switching of WiFi and cellular data for faster browsing, while on the smartwatch there’s a new Time-Lapse face among other tweaks.

Microsoft’s New App Is PowerPoint for People Who Hate PowerPoint – If the idea of formatting a PowerPoint fills you with dread, then you might want to consider downloading Sway, a new presentation app from Microsoft out Wednesday. Rather than overwhelm users with nitpicky formatting options, Sway sits between the user and the slides like an eager designer, automatically selecting fonts, prepping layouts, cropping photos and placing them flush against the text. PowerPoint maestros may bridle at the prospect of losing control to an overweening algorithm, but that’s fine with the Sway team.

Best Buy fails to erase some returned devices before re-selling them – We’ve seen this happen a few times with Best Buy, that ubiquitous chain with 1,600 stores in North America, which boasts that “more than 70 percent of the [US] population lives within 15 minutes of a Best Buy store.” The most recent incident happened last week when Michal Urban bought an open box Apple TV from a Best Buy in Mission Viejo, California. The Apple TV was still logged in to several of the previous owner’s accounts, Urban told Ars. Urban provided us with screenshots showing logged-in accounts for iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now.

Google turns your Android phone into a Hangouts presentation powerhouse – Google is on a roll with adding new features to Slides—the company’s presentation software—on mobile. After introducing support for Airplay and Chromecast in June, Google just announced Slides support for Hangouts video calls on Android. Instead of sharing your PC desktop during a Hangouts call, the new feature allows you to display a presentation on Hangouts from your smartphone or tablet. As with the AirPlay and Chromecast features, this essentially turns your phone into a presentation remote control, allowing you to advance through slides, check your speaker notes, and even monitor your presentation pace with a built-in timer.

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Dual-booting Linux with Windows: What you need to know – Linux can run from just a USB drive without modifying your existing system, but you’ll want to install it on your PC if you plan on using it regularly. Installing a Linux distribution alongside Windows as a “dual boot” system will give you a choice of either operating system each time you start your PC. It’s the ideal way for most people to install Linux, as you can always get back to a full Windows system with a reboot.

iOS keyboard app Signily lets users type with sign language – Signly, a new keyboard app for iOS, offers something that almost no other app does: the ability for deaf users to type and communicate with sign language. The app comes from ASLized, a US nonprofit group, and was created with the help of deaf people, and uses American Sign Language (ASL). Typing is done with hand gestures making different signs, in a style similar to the default emoji on iOS. There are even options to change the hand’s skin color, much like the recent iOS update that did the same to face and hand emojis.

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An SSD upgrade is still the single best thing you can do for your PC – I can’t tell you exactly how much your PC will speed up with an SSD. But I can tell you it will be a lot.

Microsoft caught using Windows user’s bandwidth to seed Windows 10 – I knew something was fishy when my internet connection was far slower than normal. This has been happening over a few days, after contacting my ISP they did some digging and found that my uploads were far higher than normal. I checked my devices one by one and found the culprit was my windows box. Hogging bandwidth and causing huge slowdown. And this is on a fiber connection! Later I found out that this was because MS has decided to automatically opt in ALL windows users into distributing windows 10 to other users!  Absolutely disgusting!

500px Revamps Its App To Better Appeal To The Instagram Crowd – 500px, the online photo-sharing community that recently raised another $13 million to challenge Flickr and Getty, is today rolling out a significant change to its mobile application. Beginning with an update on iOS, the company has completely redesigned and rebuilt its app from the ground up, in an effort that’s focused on making its app appeal to a more mainstream consumer base.

Reddit bans racist communities, ‘quarantines’ other offensive talk – Reddit is removing several racist communities from its website, as well as other offensive discussion topics, part of an ongoing effort to clean up the most toxic content on its site. Among those now banned are the subreddits /r/CoonTown and /r/bestofcoontown—as well as others with even more racist names—and also content related to “animated” child pornography, said Steve Huffman, Reddit’s chief executive, in a post on Wednesday. Reddit is trying to strike a balance between honoring its heritage as a place for free-wheeling free speech while also restricting hateful or harassing content. It’s a tough balance, though, and some of its longtime users have criticized what they see as censorship of the site.

Microsoft releases DVD player app for Windows 10 — for $15 – Windows 10 excludes a few key features, including support for playing DVDs. Microsoft has now released an app to handle the task, though it doesn’t play Blu-ray discs.

Don’t pay! You can watch DVDs for free on Windows 10 – Watching a movie on a DVD may seem archaic in this streaming age, but you shouldn’t have to pay a fee to play a DVD on your computer. For many people, the Windows 10 upgrade doesn’t come with software to play a DVD movie. Microsoft is charging $15 for the program in its app store, but you don’t have to pay. Watch CNET Update below to learn what you can do about it:

Security:

Design flaw in Intel chips opens door to rootkits – A design flaw in the x86 processor architecture dating back almost two decades could allow attackers to install a rootkit in the low-level firmware of computers, a security researcher said Thursday. Such malware could be undetectable by security products. The vulnerability stems from a feature first added to the x86 architecture in 1997. It was disclosed Thursday at the Black Hat security conference by Christopher Domas, a security researcher with the Battelle Memorial Institute.

Waiting for Android’s inevitable security Armageddon – We’re on day who-the-heck-knows of the Android Stagefright security vulnerability, and there’s really no point keeping track of the days because no one’s going to fix it. The Android ecosystem can’t deal with security, and it won’t change until it’s too late. The Android ecosystem’s reaction to the “Stagefright” vulnerability is an example of how terrible things are. An estimated 95 percent of Android devices have a have a remote arbitrary code execution just by receiving malicious video MMS. Android has other protections in place to stop this vulnerability from running amok on your smartphone, but it’s still really scary. As you might expect, Google, Samsung, and LG have all pledged to “Take Security Seriously” and issue a fix as soon as possible.

Google, Samsung, LG promise monthly Android phone security updates – Good news, Android users! Your devices are about to get more secure, thanks to a new update program Google is kicking off. You’ll now be getting security updates on a monthly basis — not whenever your carrier gets around to approving them. Samsung and LG are on board, and Google expects other manufacturers to follow their lead. The first update will be delivered to Nexus devices (4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, and the Nexus Player) this week. It features “fixes for issues in bulletins provided to partners through July 2015,” including the Stagefright exploit that set alarm bells off last week.

Windows patches can be intercepted and injected with malware – Researchers say Windows machines that fetch updates from an enterprise update server not configured to use encryption are vulnerable to an injection attack.

Russia blamed in Pentagon cyber-attack – A Russian cyber-attack in July saw the Pentagon pull the plug on the entire unsecured email and internet system for the Joint Staff, it’s been revealed. Described as a “sophisticated cyber intrusion”, the incident saw email accounts of around 4,000 military and civilian personnel who work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff compromised, though officials aren’t decided yet on whether it was sanctioned by the Russian government or the handiwork of an independent player. No classified documents or correspondence was taken, officials insist to CNBC. Nonetheless, it seems the haul has been well distributed.

Meet RollJam, the $30 device that jimmies car and garage doors – Serial hacker Samy Kamkar has devised RollJam, a $30 device that steals the secret codes so attackers can use them to gain unauthorized access to a car or garage. It works against a variety of market-leading chips, including the KeeLoq access control system from Microchip Technology Inc. and the High Security Rolling Code generator made by National Semiconductor. RollJam is capable of opening electronic locks on cars from Chrysler, Daewoo, Fiat, GM, Honda, Toyota, Volvo, Volkswagen Group, Clifford, Shurlok, and Jaguar. It also works against a variety of garage-door openers, including the rolling code garage door opener made by King Cobra.

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Mozilla urges users to update Firefox with file stealing exploit in wild – A violation of the same origin policy within Firefox’s built-in PDF Viewer is being exploited, which is fixed in newly released Firefox versions.

Man-in-the-Cloud Attacks Want Your Dropbox, Google Drive Files – We’ve heard of man-in-the-middle and man-in-the-browser attacks. But Imperva researchers have now uncovered man-in-the-cloud attacks, and they’re coming for your Google Drive and Dropbox accounts. With a man-in-the-cloud attack, someone can compromise major file sync services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Box (to name a few) without having to resort to stealing the user’s account credentials or somehow compromising the cloud provider’s servers. In this scenario, attackers just have to steal the synchronization token saved on the user’s endpoint machine.

Company News:

Pornhub is emulating Netflix with its new premium streaming service – Adult entertainment giant Pornhub — the flagship in the portfolio of online video conglomerate MindGeek — is launching a premium offering as a Netflix-style streaming service, one complete with ad-free HD viewing, faster playback, and exclusive content. This appears to be the site’s first step into the world of paid porn after years spent feasting on free (and often illicit) content. The service costs $9.99 per month, and it’s currently available within both desktop and mobile browsers. Pornhub is working on Android and Roku apps for release in the near future, and it’s also planning to augment the existing service with VR integration in 2016.

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IBM Buying Merge Healthcare For $1B To Bring Medical Image Analysis To Watson Health – IBM announced a huge deal today, agreeing to pay a billion dollars for Merge Healthcare, a medical imaging company it plans to fold into the Watson Health unit. Merge’s technology is in use in 7500 healthcare facilities in the US, according to information supplied by IBM. The firm processes billions of images such as x-rays, MRIs and CT scans with 30 billion images processed to-date, a number that is growing by the day. In fact, IBM researchers estimate that up to 90 percent of all medical data today is in the form of images.

Microsoft, Salesforce.com join $5.3 billion Informatica buyout – Data-integration giant Informatica has made itself a private company in a $5.3 billion deal that includes investments from Microsoft and Salesforce.com. The deal, said to be the biggest leveraged buyout this year, means Informatica’s stock ceased trading on the Nasdaq on Thursday. In exchange, Informatica stockholders are getting $48.75 per share in cash. It’s part of a trend in which companies have been taking themselves private to make themselves more competitive. Dell, Tibco Software, Riverbed and Compuware have all made similar moves.

Hacker-friendly Chrysler hauled into court for class-action showdown – Fiat Chrysler is facing a class-action lawsuit in the US after researchers proved they could wirelessly snatch control of the engine management systems in some of its vehicles. The lawsuit, filed in the southern district of Illinois, claims Chrysler knew the networking systems in its cars were insecure. The motoring giant offers a service called uConnect that connects vehicles and their internal Wi-Fi to the public internet via the cellular network, allowing people to check Facebook on the move, or whatever.

NVIDIA Soars 9% After Beating On Profit And Revenue, Credits Growth In Its Gaming And Auto Tech Divisions – NVIDIA shares were up nearly 9 percent in after-hours trading following its announcement of a beat in FY 2016 Q2 earnings Thursday. The computer component manufacturer managed to exceed street expectations on revenue with $1.153 billion while posting non-GAAP earnings of $0.34 per share, up 13 percent from a year ago. Analysts had looked for Nvidia to generate $0.20 per-share profit on top line of $1.01 billion.

Games and Entertainment:

12 Tips All Diehard Xbox 360 Fans Should Know – The 360 is the best-selling console Microsoft has made, the sixth best-selling in gaming history (right behind the PS2, Nintendo DS, Game Boy, original PlayStation, and Nintendo Wii). Which means there are a lot of 360 users still making do. There is obviously a lot of life left in the ol’ Xbox 360. To solidify that fact, I’ve put together 12 tips that keep me happy every day with mine. Implement them if the console remains your hub of fun and entertainment activity.

Classic iPhone game Spider finally has a sequel – 2009 was an exciting time for mobile games. The App Store was new, and game developers were still trying out strange and inventive ideas for touchscreen gaming, without having to worry about payment models or an over-flooded market. One of the best of that early wave of games was Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, where you played as a tiny spider, spinning webs to eat bugs while also exploring a sprawling house filled with secrets. It was an entirely unique combination of gameplay and environmental storytelling. Now, six years later, an eternity for mobile gaming, a sequel arrives: Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon, available today on iOS and Steam.

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HBO NOW Adds Support For Google’s Chromecast – HBO’s over-the-top streaming service may not be making money just yet, but it is rapidly expanding its footprint. Starting today, the service will support Google’s Chromecast for streaming from your mobile device to your TV, according to the update text in the iOS version that just arrived on the iTunes App Store. The Android app has not yet been updated, as of the time of writing, but will arrive later today.

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The Mad Max game has little to do with the movie, but could be just as good – Here’s an easy recipe for disappointment: take one of the awesomest, most refreshingly nuanced and thoughtful action movies of recent times, Mad Max: Fury Road, and turn it into a generic find-and-destroy open world game. That’s exactly what I envisioned when I first heard of the Mad Max game, which is set in the same universe and stars the same titular character, but is otherwise divorced from Fury Road. I’m glad to say I was wrong.

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World of Warcraft: Legion unveiled with teaser – Blizzard has announced the upcoming expansion to World of Warcraft, it is called Legion. The company showed off Legion at Gamescom in Germany earlier today, including releasing the first teaser for the expansion that includes a look at both gameplay and its different features (we’ve the video after the jump). Among other things, World of Warcraft: Legion will include a new level cap raised to 110, as well as a new hero class called Demon Hunter.

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Prison Break becomes the latest Fox series to be rebooted – Prison Break, a show about hot tattooed men learning how far they will go for the people they love as they writhe inside cages, is coming back for another escape. Deadline reports that the series, which limped off the air in 2009 after two incredible seasons and two mediocre ones, will return for 10 episodes. The first one is now being written by creator Paul Scheuring, with stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell returning as brothers who perpetually find themselves caught up in shadowy conspiracies. They will probably have to break out of something again. It could be fun!

Off Topic (Sort of):

Microsoft vacates moral high ground for the data slurpers’ cesspit – A funny thing happened while I was reinstalling Windows 8 over Windows 10 yesterday morning. There in front of me, halfway through the installation process, were two full, clear pages of privacy toggles. Every toggle was set to not send private information to Microsoft, or anyone else. In addition, Windows 8 created a local user account by default – and didn’t demand I maintain a constant, umbilical connection to Microsoft’s servers. Windows 8 was configured for maximum privacy. Now compare this to the indiscriminate data slurp that Microsoft calls Windows 10. It’s basically a clumsy, 3GB keylogger.

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Why Windows 10 isn’t really free: The subtle new world of built-in costs – Windows 10 isn’t really free. Realizing why and how it isn’t really free can help you understand why installing the operating system on 1 billion systems by 2017 is such a big deal for Microsoft—and why this version of Windows is very different at its core than Windows 7 and its predecessors. Let’s get the “free” part out of the way before we dive into that, though.

Should Software Companies Be Legally Liable For Security Breaches? – It’s a truism that all software has bugs and security holes. It’s another that license agreements invariably make software vendors immune to liability for damage or losses caused by such flaws. But, to my surprise, Black Hat’s founder and keynote speaker are arguing that software product liability, presumably mandated by governments, is inevitable. If they’re right, a seismic change is on the horizon.

Man films cop, who quickly unholsters his weapon for no apparent reason – In the most recent incident involving authorities, filming, and firearms, a new viral phone video from California depicts a bizarre situation where a local police officer unholsters his weapon at a man for no apparent reason. The video was taken by Don McComas (aka Ryan Jones), of Rohnert Park, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. The five-minute film was posted to YouTube on August 3, and it shows a Rohnert Park police SUV slowly approaching McComas on what appears to be a quiet residential street. In the YouTube notes, McComas wrote that it all started when he was out in front of his house, hooking up his boat to his car.

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Samsung will turn its TVs into giant credit cards – Samsung wants to make it easier for you to make purchases from the comfort of your couch. That’s why they’re bringing Samsung Pay integration to their smart TVs. Only 2014 and 2015 models will be receiving the upgrade. If that happens to include your Samsung set, you’ll soon be able to make payments with the greatest of ease. Link your Samsung Pay account to your credit card or PayPal account, and all you have to do to complete a transaction on your television is to enter a four-digit PIN.

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The One Thing Every Great Company Has In Common – Obscured in the valuation dust of the current unicorn stampede is a key question: What actually makes a great company great? What do the future Facebooks, Googles and Apples have in common — not to mention the current ones?

Something to think about:

“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

–     Albert Einstein

Today’s Free Downloads:

Belarc Advisor – Belarc Advisor builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, network inventory, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, security benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser.

While there are a lot of choices in system info tools, Belarc has the advantage of being around the longest. It’s a tool found in most techs toolboxes.

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Pointing up  I bought a new machine yesterday and Belarc Advisor got me up to date quickly on all facets of this new box. The graphic above illustrates just a small sample of the type of reporting this app is capable of. Highly recommended.

IP Camera Viewer – IP Camera Viewer lets you use any USB or IP camera is to keep an eye on your home, office, parking area or anywhere you need security.

View video from multiple IP cameras directly to your computer. Currently more than 2000 different IP camera models from leading camera manufactures are supported. It includes Axis, Canon, D-Link, Foscam, Panasonic, Mobotix, Pixord, Sony, Toshiba, Vivotek and many more.

You can send a request to our technical team if your camera or model is not listed in our application. Virtually all USB cameras work with IP Camera Viewer. You can control and view up to 4 camera feeds simultaneously. Get a live preview from multiple cameras with this light-weight application. IP Camera Viewer’s centralized camera and layout management allows you to view your cameras from multiple remote locations on a single screen. You can change the arrangement and preview layout of the cameras, for your security needs.

Make the live video clearer by adjusting camera image and video properties. It allows you to individually configure video properties such as resolution and frame rate for USB cameras. You can set image properties such as saturation, brightness, contrast for USB and IP Cameras.

What if your camera is mounted upside-down or its preview is tilted a bit? With IP Camera Viewer you can adjust the orientation of your camera preview. It helps you to adjust the coverage area by supporting many PTZ (Pan/Tilt/Zoom) enabled network cameras. IP Camera Viewer provides a digital zoom, even if it is not supported by your camera.

IP Camera Viewer allows you to set up a system that suits your needs. It’s absolutely free and ideal for both personal and business use.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Dream of Internet freedom dying, Black Hat keynoter says – Today the dream of Internet freedom is dying as the global network becomes more centralized, regulated and globalized, according to Jennifer Granick, who delivered the opening keynote Wednesday at the annual Black Hat USA Conference in Las Vegas.

Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said we will have an Internet in 20 years that does not reflect the original dream of freedoms and global conversation.

“It will be a slick, stiff, controlled closed thing,” she told a packed Mandalay Bay Ballroom.

Granick said the hacker ethic that information should be accessible is dying along with decentralization, that was an original design element of the Internet, and the idea of a network that would allow free speech, while providing security and privacy.

Australia: Foxtel to launch legal action to block pirating websites – FOXTEL will be the first rights-holder to begin launching legal proceedings, with the company confirming it is receiving legal advice on how it can best put the new anti-piracy legislation into effect.

If Foxtel does launch a case in the coming months, it would be aimed at blocking websites such as The Pirate Bay, which Australians flock to to illegally download shows such as Game of Thrones, which Foxtel has the exclusive rights to in Australia.

A Foxtel spokesman told news.com.au: “The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill does nothing more than give copyright holders similar rights in relation to foreign websites which steal their content to those they would have if the sites were based in Australia.

“Because these pirate sites do not exist in Australia, rights holders are not able to take direct legal action against them.

“Similar laws exists in Europe, the UK, Singapore and many other jurisdictions.

“Foxtel and other rights holders are currently assessing what action can and should be taken to give effect to the legislation.” (recommended by Mal C.)

China Is Making a Massive New Move to Censor the Internet – China, long known for its strict Internet censorship laws, is now sending online censors to take posts at the country’s biggest online companies.

Key “network security officers” will monitor the work of key websites and Web firms for crimes such as fraud and the “spreading of rumors,” China’s Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. These officers would be a part of the roughly 2 million people employed by the government to monitor Web activity, as first reported by the BBC.

The ministry didn’t say which companies would be getting a new in-house police unit, the Wall Street Journal notes. It also wasn’t clear whether these new measures would apply to international companies as well as local tech firms operating in China.

Germany’s top prosecutor fired over Netzpolitik “treason” probe – Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas has fired the country’s top prosecutor, Harald Range, over the latter’s handling of the Netzpolitik.org “treason” investigation, turning what began as a battle over blogs, whistleblowing, and freedom of the press, into a full-blown political crisis. As the Deutsche Welle website reports, the dismissal was framed as an “early retirement.” Maas said: “I have told Federal Prosecutor Range that my trust in his ability to fulfill the office has suffered lasting damage and therefore in agreement with the Chancellery I will request his retirement today.”

On Sunday, Ars reported that Range was pausing the investigation. That was partly as a result of the growing public outcry over the suggestion that two journalists at Netzpolitik.org had committed treason for publishing leaks about Germany’s surveillance plans, but also because of growing political pressure. Last week, Maas indicated to Range that he doubted that publishing the leaked documents on Netzpolitik.org constituted treason. Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Monday that she gave her “full support” to the Justice Minister, while refusing to say whether she still had confidence in Range—effectively siding with Maas.

Yesterday, Range hit back, accusing Maas of “an intolerable encroachment on the independence of the judiciary.” AFP reported him as saying: “The freedom of the press and of expression is a valuable asset. But this freedom, including on the Internet, is not limitless. It does not absolve journalists of the duty to comply with the law.” This framing turned the “treason” affair into an open battle between the German state and its judiciary, but with Merkel’s public support, Maas evidently felt in a strong enough position to remove Range without further discussion.

Tech industry objects to terrorist activity reporting section in US legislation – Powerful tech industry groups have asked the U.S. Senate to drop a plan to require Internet companies to report terrorist activity on their platforms, as the provision could potentially raise privacy issues for users.

Section 603 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 would require Internet services companies, who obtain ”actual knowledge of any terrorist activity,” to provide to the appropriate authorities the “facts or circumstances” of the alleged activities.

Describing “any terrorist activity” as a vague and overbroad term, the Internet Association, Reform Government Surveillance and Internet Infrastructure Coalition have in a letter Wednesday warned that the provision could result in “overbroad reporting to the government, swamping law enforcement with useless information, and potentially raising First Amendment and privacy concerns for the user who posted the item.”

How the Arab Spring blew the lid off the commercial spyware – When Middle Eastern governments fell in the Arab Spring uprisings, one of the side effects was that hard evidence of dodgy practices by commercial spyware vendors was made public. Unfortunately, the result is putting us all at risk.

Documents uncovered when the Mubarak regime fell showed that the Egyptians had bought commercial spyware from the UK-based firm Gamma International, while in Syria, Blue Coat Systems was found to have been selling deep packet inspection equipment to the government.

The same was true in Libya, where after the fall of the Gaddafi dictatorship, documents were found showing that Amesys – a subsidiary of French conglomerate Groupe Bull – had sold the mad colonel’s government spyware that was tracking Libyan citizens both at home and abroad.

“All of this became evidence of what people knew all along – that there were sales of sophisticated malware that enabled governments that weren’t tech savvy to spy on their own citizens and on diasporas abroad,” explained security researcher Collin Anderson.

Carly Fiorina calls on Apple, Google to provide greater access for FBI – Republican presidential candidate and former tech-executive Carly Fiorina has called on Apple and Google to provide greater access to information about their users to the FBI and law enforcement in order to aid investigations.

Speaking Thursday in a televised debate in Cleveland organized by Fox News Channel, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard said restrictions that prevent private companies and law enforcement from working together need to be changed.

“I certainly support that we need to tear down cyber walls, not on a mass basis but on a targeted basis,” she said in response to a question from a moderator.

“I do not believe that we need to wholesale destroy every American citizen’s privacy in order to go after those that we know are suspect or already a problem, but yes, there is more collaboration required between private sector companies and the public sector and specifically we know that we could have detected and repelled some of these cyber attacks if that collaboration had been permitted,” she said.

Law banning secret filming of animal abuse on farms ruled unconstitutional – Idaho’s pro-agribusiness law that barred the secret recording of livestock has been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge who ruled that the so-called “ag gag” law violated the First Amendment.

The decision, if it survives on appeal, threatens similar laws in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Utah. A North Carolina law takes force in January. Idaho’s law carried a maximum one-year jail penalty and up to a $5,000 fine for first offenders for filming or audio recording at a farm without the owner’s consent.

It was challenged by several animal-rights groups. Monday’s decision marks the first time one of these laws has been declared unconstitutional.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the group hopes the Idaho decision snowballs. “This Idaho decision is just the first step in defeating similar ag gag laws across the country,” the group said in a statement.

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