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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 30, 2016

The Best VPN Services of 2017;  The first things you should do with your new Android phone;  10 killer PC upgrades that are shockingly cheap;  How to improve the security and privacy of your iPhone: 5 steps;  Best apps to increase your productivity;  End-of-the-year cleanup checklist for Macs;  16 Android Apps Actually Worth Paying For;  Amazon is putting ‘thousands’ of digital items on sale December 30;  The 10 best paid Android games of 2016;  Germany May Fine Facebook $552K Per Fake News Story – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Report: Germany May Fine Facebook $552K Per Fake News Story – Facebook has already taken steps to get its fake news problem sorted out, but the social network may want to make solving this issue a bigger priority in the near future. Because if not, the company may face some big penalties in Germany. Word has it that the German government is mulling a new law under which Facebook could be fined up to 500,000 euros ($522,000) per fake news story per day it’s on the platform. The law would reportedly apply to other social networks as well.

The first things you should do with your new Android phone – There’s a special type of geekish delight that comes with a new Android phone. While it may sound trite, your options for phones are truly better than ever thanks to a new phone from Google and solid updates to other models. It’s also less hassle than ever to switch from the iPhone or an older Android phone. Yet we still have some insider tips to pass along, as you can’t have enough knowledge when it comes to setting up the optimal smartphone experience.

The Best VPN Services of 2017 – As consumers, we expect computer hardware and software manufacturers to keep us safe. The problem is, we all too often use our computers in risky ways. Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, for example, is a commonplace practice, but these are also excellent avenues for attackers to seize your personal information. Enter virtual private networks, or VPNs. These services use simple software to secure your Internet connection and give you greater control of how you appear online. You can even use them to stream Netflix from other countries. While you might have never heard of VPN services before, they are valuable tools that everyone should have at their disposal.

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How to check if your VPN is leaking private data – A trusted virtual private network is a great tool for security and privacy, but if it’s not configured correctly it may not be so private.

10 killer PC upgrades that are shockingly cheap – Investing small amounts in key new PC hardware can keep your computer running strong for years to come. These upgrades—most costing well under $100—breathe new life into slow machines. You just have to be strategic and make sure you’re putting your money in the best place for your particular system.

Best apps to increase your productivity – There are admittedly dozens, if not hundreds, or productivity apps and tools out there promising you the world and future. Sometimes choosing which one to stick to is ironically the most unproductive thing you can do. So to help you get started, here are some of our favorites to kickstart your journey towards a rocking 2017.

Samsung Focus is an all-in-one productivity app for Android – Samsung has announced what it calls an all-in-one productivity app, Samsung Focus. This app brings together all the things you’d normally consider part of a productive workday: your email, memos, phone contacts, and calendar, namely. Samsung Focus features a tabbed interface and serves as a single destination in which to access these items, including multiple email accounts. Users can even select specific keywords around which notifications will revolve. Samsung Focus is available for Android devices running Android version 6.0.1 Marshmallow or later, and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store now.

16 Android Apps Actually Worth Paying For – Android’s poly-manufacturer ecosystem has long since eclipsed iOS as the world’s most popular mobile operating system. However, app developers still tend to fare better in the Applesphere—financially speaking. Even though Google Play regularly outshines the App Store in total number of downloads, Apple users are far more willing than their Android counterparts to actually plunk down cash for their apps. This is not surprising, given what we know about users of each ecosystem. Speaking very broadly, Apple is a premium brand that appeals to users who will spend extra for what they believe (rightly or wrongly) to be a superior experience, while Android is the mass appeal brand for those who are fine with the basics.

How to improve the security and privacy of your iPhone: 5 steps – The iPhone is known for its security, due to Apple’s closed ecosystem and the company’s stance on encryption, but there are some additional steps you can take and settings you can change to further improve it. Here are five quick tips that will help you boost the security and privacy of your iPhone.

Windows 10 tip: More hibernation secrets to save time and disk space – Hibernation is a great alternative to sleep, allowing you to cut your PC’s power use to zero while still being able to quickly get back to work. Here’s how to configure this feature and manage the size of the hibernation file.

Facebook & Google dominate the list of 2016’s top apps – Mobile applications from Facebook and Google dominated the new list of the year’s top apps released today by Nielsen. Not surprisingly, Facebook again grabbed the number one spot on the list, with more than 146 million average unique users per month, and 14 percent growth over last year. In fact, Facebook scored several spots on the top 10 chart, thanks to Messenger (#2) and Instagram (#8) – the latter which also showed some of the highest year-over-year growth, up 36 percent from 2015. Messenger came in second place this year, with over 129 million average unique monthly users, followed by YouTube with over 113 monthly uniques. However, it was Google, not Facebook, that grabbed the most spots on the year-end chart.

End-of-the-year cleanup checklist for Macs – Get your Mac ready for 2017 with this easy to follow, itemized guide of important steps to keep your Mac running smoothly into the new year.

You Can Use This Operating System and USB Drive to Revive Derelict Laptops – We’ve all got an older computer or laptop laying around the house that we just can’t be bothered to fix. Maybe it’s riddled with malware because Aunt Clara couldn’t figure out how to stop clicking on those pesky pop-up ads. Or maybe you just didn’t feel like reformatting it after installing and reinstalling things over and over again as the years went by. Whatever the case may be, you’ve probably got one or have one somewhere, and you don’t have much you can or want to do with it. Until now, that is. The creators of the Raspberry Pi have created an experimental operating system known as Pixel that’s meant to revitalize computers just like the ones I described above.

Twitter launches 360-degree video streaming on Periscope – The feature is launching immediately — you can already watch the “first ever #Periscope360” stream right here. But while everyone can watch in 360 degrees, only “select partners” are able to stream in 360 degrees at launch. The implementation is pretty typical. On the desktop, you can click and drag around on the screen to rotate the camera. And on mobile, you can twist and turn your phone to change your perspective. The video quality isn’t particularly great — but then, most 360-degree video streams aren’t that great anyway. And it does appear to work.

Amazon is putting ‘thousands’ of digital items on sale December 30 – Amazon is holding its first-ever “Digital Day,” a 24-hour period of steep markdowns on apps, games, music, TV shows, movies, ebooks, comics, and other digital content. The company has set up a teaser page revealing some of what will be on sale, including temporary savings on a subscription to Amazon’s Spotify competitor, Amazon Music Unlimited. “Enjoy up to 80 percent off hundreds of video game titles, 50 percent off on top movies and TV shows, 75 percent off on hundreds of digital comics, and other great deals on popular content for your devices,” the page reads. In total, Amazon is promising savings on “thousands” of digital items.

Popular video transcoder HandBrake hits version 1.0 after 13 years – HandBrake is celebrating a new milestone this week, as an update released over the Christmas holiday brought the transcoding program to version 1.0. That’s a big enough reason for celebration and champagne all its own, but what makes this release more important for the Handbrake team is that it took 13 years to reach this point. Yes, HandBrake was initially released in August 2003.

Download.com 20th anniversary: 20 of our most popular apps – Discover the most downloaded messaging, gaming, and antivirus software — then and now.

Security:

Obama announces sanctions for Russian election hacking – The sanctions cover nine individuals and organizations in Russia, and will prevent four officials from Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, from traveling to the U.S. or keeping assets here. But the sanctions may not have a significant impact, the New York Times reports, since GRU officials do not often visit the U.S. Thirty-five Russian intelligence operatives will also be forced to leave the U.S. Three companies were also singled out in the announcement of the sanctions: the Special Technologies Center, Zor Security, and a group called the “Autonomous Non-commercial Organization Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems” that reportedly provided training to hackers.

It’s 2017 and changing other people’s flight bookings is incredibly easy – The travel booking systems used by millions of people every day lack modern authentication methods and allow attackers to easily modify other people’s reservations.

Critical flaw in PHPMailer library puts millions of websites at risk – A critical remote code execution vulnerability in PHPMailer, one of the most widely used PHP email sending libraries, could put millions of websites at risk of hacking. The flaw was found by a security researcher named Dawid Golunski and an initial fix was included in PHPMailer 5.2.18, which was released Saturday. However, it turns out that the patch was incomplete and can be bypassed. The PHPMailer library is used directly or indirectly by many content management systems (CMSs) including WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Where the library is not included in their core code, it is likely available as a separate module or can be bundled with third-party add-ons.

Good Guy Hacker Launches ‘Security Without Borders’ to Defend At-Risk Dissidents – Some hackers have lost their way. Today, countless techies have entered the for-profit cybersecurity business, potentially neglecting what one security researcher calls their responsibility to civil society: helping at-risk users like dissidents with the security of their work, for example. To that end, Claudio Guarnieri, who has spent years analyzing cyberattacks against activists and journalists, has launched a new project tentatively titled ‘Security Without Borders’, which he hopes will more effectively connect white hat hackers with targeted groups and individuals.

Here’s what a “digital Miranda warning” might look like – Smartphone owners need to know if—and when—they need to reveal their passcodes.

Five unexpected lessons from the Ashley Madison breach – This complaint and settlement is important, but not for the obvious reasons. The Ashley Madison complaint follows a long line of actions brought by the FTC to combat unfair and deceptive data protection practices. The site’s exploitation of users’ desperation, vulnerability, and desire for secrecy is exactly the sort of abuse of power the Federal Trade Commission was created to mitigate. But there are five key lessons that should not be missed in discussions about the agency’s settlement of the case. This complaint and settlement are more than just business as usual—they reflect a modern and sustainable way to think about and enforce our privacy in the coming years.

Company News:

SoftBank lets Trump brag about creating jobs (he didn’t) so that it can buy T-Mobile – In a convoluted turn of self promotion, the President-elect just revisited his not-so-humblebrag from earlier this month, falsely taking credit for SoftBank’s Vision Fund, a joint $100 billion plan between SoftBank and Saudi Arabia to invest in emerging technologies. As announced in October, the fund’s creators plan to seed it with $25 billion and $45 billion respectively over the next five years. Given that Silicon Valley is world capital of tech innovation, a lot of that money was bound to land stateside regardless of Trump’s claims to take credit after the fact. Nonetheless, Trump continues to tout his election win for SoftBank’s pre-existing plan to create 50,000 U.S. jobs through its investments in Sprint, OneWeb and the Vision Fund.

Oculus buys The Eye Tribe for eye-tracking control – Eye-tracking inside virtual reality headsets may soon become all too real. Oculus’ acquisition of The Eye Tribe could jump-start the technology reaching the public. This acquisition may be for more than virtual reality devices as The Eye Tribe’s creation of a $99 eye-tracking device for developers works for all manner of hardware – that includes smartphones as well as VR headsets and PCs.

In light of discrimination concerns, Uber and Lyft defend their policies to show rider names and photos – Uber and Lyft have responded to Senator Al Franken’s questions regarding potential racial discrimination against passengers. Last month, Franken wondered why it’s necessary to include names and photos of passengers requesting rides, and what steps both companies can take to dissuade drivers from canceling rides on people with “black-sounding” names. In Uber and Lyft’s responses to Franken, both of the companies CEOs defended their respective policies. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who first clarified that drivers only see the first names of passengers and not photos of them, said Uber designed it this way in order “to ensure a smooth and safe pick-up process.”

Amazon files patent for ‘Death Star’ flying warehouse – In an image straight out of a dystopian consumerist vision of the future, Amazon has filed a patent for a huge flying warehouses equipped with fleets of drones for airborne drops. The patent describes the airborne fulfillment center (AFC) as an airship that could remain at a high altitude, at around 45,000 feet, with a fleet of drones “to deliver ordered items to user designated delivery locations.” The flying warehouse may be “positioned at an altitude above a metropolitan area and be designed to maintain an inventory of items that may be purchased by a user and delivered to the user.”

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Volvo integrates Skype for Business in its 90 series vehicles – The Skype integration is a way of getting around the messier parts of joining conference calls, including entering long participant pin codes, and sometimes sequential button requirements that feed you through a chain of options before you ever even get to the meeting itself. Volvo and Microsoft are clearly doing everything they can to position this as a distraction reducer, rather than the other way around.

Games and Entertainment:

The 10 best paid Android games of 2016 – Paying for a game doesn’t automatically ensure that it will be awesome, but you can’t go wrong with the 10 games collected here. For just $2 to $5 a pop, these games provide engrossing fun, polished gameplay, and some of the most inventive experiences we’ve played on smartphones all year. Here’s a look at 2016’s best premium Android games.

Super Mario Run for Android pre-registration opens – Super Mario Run has been breaking records and it has been doing its record breaking while only be available on one of the major smartphone platforms. Super Mario Run has been on iOS only since launch and has still ticked up about 40 million downloads. Android gamers will soon get to join in the action with Super Mario Run coming soon for Android.

PlayStation Plus games for January 2017: Day of the Tentacle and more – Sony has detailed the free games arriving for PlayStation Plus members in January 2017, and chief among them is a remastered version of the classic game “Day of the Tentacle” for the PlayStation 4. The game was originally released in 1993, and it enjoys a healthy fanbase that will get to re-experience it on Sony’s latest-gen console soon. There are five other games in the lineup, including titles for the PlayStation 3 and the PS Vita.

Microsoft might add ‘game mode’ to Windows 10 for maximum gaming performance – Gaming on Windows 10 might be getting even better. A report from UberGizmo cites Twitter user @h0x0d, who found a new “gamemode.dll” in the latest Windows 10 developer build. The feature appears to allow Windows 10 to adjust CPU and GPU resources when running a game to allocate more power for the game that’s running instead of toward any background apps. It’s a move that essentially allows PCs to act almost like consoles, freeing up almost all the computational firepower of the machine for the sole purpose of running games as well as possible. The so-called “game mode” is another indication that Microsoft is continuing to take PC gaming on Windows 10 even more seriously.

Hulu is getting over 50 Disney movies thanks to new licensing deal – In its continuing battle with Netflix, Hulu this week announced a new licensing deal with Disney which sees Hulu gaining the exclusive rights to stream a sizable collection of Disney movies via its subscription service. In total, over 50 titles will become available on Hulu in the months ahead, including “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Mulan,” “Pocahontas,” “Hercules,” “Tarzan,” and others.

Diablo 3 20th Anniversary brings in-game goodies to other Blizzard titles – In celebration of Diablo’s 20th Anniversary, Blizzard has announced cross-game promotions with each of its other titles. The Lord of Terror will be featured in all Blizzard titles in one way or another, with some games getting more content than others. Blizzard hasn’t revealed when, precisely, these promotions will begin, but it seems safe to assume that they’ll kick off on or around December 31, which is the anniversary of the original game’s release.

DirecTV Now’s $35, 100-channel plan will jump to $60 on January 9 – DirecTV Now’s limited-time introductory $35-per-month subscription deal is going away early next month. AT&T’s website confirms that the “Go Big” package of over 100 channels will switch to its normal $60 monthly cost starting January 9th. If you’re at all interested in the streaming TV service, you should sign up before that date — otherwise you’ll miss out on the promotional price. If you do start a DirecTV Now subscription by the 9th, you’ll be able to continue paying that $35 each month without being switched to the more expensive subscription plan. Once the limited offer ends, there will still be a $35 plan, but with significantly fewer channels:

Off Topic (Sort of):

5G promises to transform the world again – At Huawei’s Mobile Broadband event last month, I saw what a 5G future looks like — ultra-fast, always on connectivity, making life more simple. A world based on data and collaboration, with automated intelligence and sensor-equipped surroundings, becomes a canvas to create businesses, to educate, and to make life more efficient. The next shift is about to happen, and it’s 5G.

Study: 40% of Americans use their phone within 5 minutes of waking up – A new global mobile consumer survey details technology trends from the U.S. as noted throughout 2016, and among them are details about how US techies use their phone. Most notably, about 40-percent of Americans check their smartphone within five minutes of waking up in the morning. That number grows over the minutes following, with most people checking their phone within an hour of waking up, and continuing to check it dozens of times throughout the day.

5 underrated Microsoft announcements that could change the world – This was a big year for Microsoft. The HoloLens began shipping to developers, Windows 10 made it through its first year intact (though not without controversy), and the company got into the desktop computer market with a stunning mega-touchscreen. But there were a few key announcements that flew under the radar this year. While they may not have the splash factor of a Surface Studio or HoloLens, these developments have the potential to alter Microsoft and the world for years to come. Here’s the rundown on what you probably missed.

Eye candy from space: The most beautiful panoramas and photos of the universe around us – Straight outta sci-fi: these beauty shots from all over space offer a startling, spectacular look into the cosmos. Watch the universe at work, from our own lonely planet to the deepest image of the Orion Nebula ever captured.

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Sorry folks, science says hands-free calls are still a big driving distraction – Hands-free technology is largely viewed as the solution to phone-addicted drivers, but another study has surfaced that disagrees. According to QUT’s study, which utilized the CARRS-Q Advanced Driving Simulator as part of its research, hands-free phone use while driving is still quite a distraction, delaying reaction time significantly compared to those who weren’t using any phones, hands-free or otherwise.

Why Oakland Police Turned Down Predictive Policing – Predictive policing is becoming popular for American police departments, but some have rejected the tech over concerns about bias.

Tom Arnold calls on ‘gamers’ to get Trump’s taxes – The actor and comedian has also teased a database that he claims contains ‘The Apprentice’ outtakes that don’t portray the President-elect in a good light.

Trump Tales:

Americans — especially but not exclusively Trump voters — believe crazy, wrong things – Many Americans believe a lot of dumb, crazy, destructive, provably wrong stuff. Lately this is especially (though not exclusively) true of Donald Trump voters, according to a new survey. The survey, from the Economist/YouGov, was conducted in mid-December, and it finds that willingness to believe a given conspiracy theory is (surprise!) strongly related to whether that conspiracy theory supports one’s political preferences. Remember Pizzagate? That’s the bizarre theory that Hillary Clinton was helping run a child sex slave ring out of a D.C. pizza joint, as allegedly proven by code words in hacked Democratic emails. Lest you think this theory was espoused by only a handful of Internet nutjobs, observe that nearly half of Trump voters believe it’s true. This result is based on a poll conducted after a North Carolina man burst into the restaurant with an assault-style rifle, leaving only when he was satisfied that no child sex-slaves were harbored there.

Donald Trump Says ‘Nobody Knows Exactly What’s Going On’ Because of Computers – Asked whether the U.S. should sanction Russia over computer hacking on Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump cast doubt on the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies and said, “We ought to get on with our lives.” But it was his next lines that had an oddly familiar ring to them: “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly,” Trump told reporters in Florida, according to multiple media reports. “The whole age of [the] computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.” It isn’t the first time a U.S. leader has appeared uncomfortable with technology.

Donald Trump, After Dismissing Hacking, Agrees to an Intelligence Briefing – President-elect Donald J. Trump edged away on Thursday from his dismissive stance on American assessments of Russian hacking, saying he would meet with intelligence officials next week “to be updated on the facts” after the Obama administration announced sanctions against Moscow. In a brief written statement, Mr. Trump’s first response to President Obama’s sweeping action against Russia, the president-elect reiterated his call for “our country to move on to bigger and better things.” But he said that, “in the interest of our country and its great people,” he would get the briefing “nevertheless.”

Something to think about:

“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”

–         Aldous Huxley

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Facebook stalls in lawsuit alleging its facial recognition tech violates Illinois law – An Illinois law is proving a thorn in Facebook’s side as a class action lawsuit, alleging mishandling of biometric information, moves toward trial. The latest developments in the case have the social network objecting against releasing or even admitting the existence of all manner of data, but the plaintiffs aren’t taking “objection” for an answer.

The case revolves around a 2008 state law known as the Biometric Information Privacy Act. BIPA basically makes it illegal to collect or use biometric data, such as a “scan of hand or face geometry,” without rigorous disclosure of methods, intentions and guarantees regarding that data. The class action suit, filed in mid-2015, alleges that Facebook has knowingly failed to perform this disclosure for its many Illinois users.

Separate suits have been filed against Shutterfly, Snapchat and Google. The Shutterfly suit was settled, and Snapchat’s sent to arbitration. The Google case is technically ongoing, but the company argues that analysis of digital photos doesn’t count as biometric data, nor could an Illinois law prevent a California company from performing such analysis outside Illinois. Facebook has likewise fought the suit, aiming for dismissal under similar arguments.

Singapore to record iris scans of citizens – Starting January 1 next year, Singapore will begin including iris scans as part of the country’s registration process for citizens and permanent residents.

This was part of efforts to improve the “effectiveness and efficiency” of operations undertaken by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement Wednesday.

The ministry said amendments to the country’s National Registration Act (NRA), enacted in 1965, had been passed in parliament to facilitate the move, and would take effect in January. The act facilitates the registration of citizens and permanent residents in Singapore, which encompasses the issue of national identity cards and other associated purposes.

ICA would begin collecting iris images as another identifier, in addition to photographs and fingerprints, the ministry said, adding that this also would be carried out for re-registration of identity cards as well as passport application and renewals.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 28, 2016

End-of-the-year cleanup checklist for Windows;  Tips for new tech devices;  10 must-have apps for your new Android phone;  Fix Your Sleep, Be More Productive;  Netflix movie list January 2017 – what’s new, what’s done;  The 10 biggest hacks, breaches, and security stories of 2016;  You got a new phone for Christmas: What to do with your old phone;  Here are the best internet video streaming services;  12 tips to make the most out of Surface Pro;  Why DVDs and Blu-rays remain essential in the age of streaming – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

End-of-the-year cleanup checklist for Windows – With the end of the year upon us, there’s no better time to perform some system upkeep chores to ensure that your system is optimized as you head into 2017. This is also the time of year when equipment is replaced by holiday gifts, with older equipment being handed down or sold to make way for the new. So let’s work through this handy checklist of practical procedures that will keep your Windows PCs humming along.

10 must-have apps for your new Android phone – There are more than 1 million apps in the Play Store, but most of them aren’t worth your time. That’s not the case with these ten apps, though. These apps fill in some fundamental feature gaps in Android and make for a much more enjoyable experience. They’re also free or cheap, so you really don’t have any excuse not to give them a shot.

Tips for new tech devices – Tech gear is a perennially popular holiday gift. If you’re the proud owner of a new phone, tablet, computer or other device — or you provide tech support for family and friends with new devices — we’re here to help. Check out and share these stories, which can help you get the most out of a new Android or iOS device, Apple Watch, Alexa device, Apple TV, Mac or Windows PC, and stay safe while doing so.

You got a new phone for Christmas: What to do with your old phone – If Santa left a new iPhone or Android smartphone under the tree, what do you do with your old smartphone? It’s a perennial question each holiday season, but the answer doesn’t have to be “sell it” or “dump it in a drawer”. Instead, there are plenty of useful things a smartphone can be turned into, even if it doesn’t have an active phone line connected. Read on for some of our favorites.

Watch Out, Chromebooks: These Windows PCs Might Eat Your Lunch – Laptops with Qualcomm’s 835 processor could be a promising alternative for thrifty shoppers who want a powerful PC.

Private Tunnel VPN offers simple, reliable VPN for mobile access – When you’re on the go, and you have to send sensitive information from your Android or iOS device, the last thing you want is to transmit that data over an unsecure connection. When your carrier connection isn’t enough, and the only Wi-Fi available is the password-less network at a local coffee shop, what do you do? You turn to an app like Private Tunnel VPN. This particular service is a spin-off of OpenVPN, so you know they understand VPN technology.

12 tips to make the most out of Surface Pro – If you are anything of a tech lover, chances are, you got a new toy this season. Or maybe you’re still planning on buying one while deals are still hot. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve got your eyes, and heart, set on Microsoft’s not so latest but still current Surface Pro 4 “tablet that can replace your laptop”. Whether you’re already holding one in your hands or have booked an appointment with Microsoft Store, there are a few things you’d want to immediately do to start on the right foot with your new work, creativity, and entertainment partner.

Move over Raspberry Pi, here are a dozen, better alternatives – The Raspberry Pi might be the name that springs to mind when people think of single board computers for homebrew projects, but there are other boards out there worth considering.

38 must-know secrets and shortcuts for your Apple TV – After installing your favorite streaming apps and playing some of the games designed just for tvOS on your Apple TV, you’re probably wondering what else this set-top box can do. There are a slew of under-the-radar features that let you customize your TV to your heart’s content and make it much easier to use. Here are 30 tips and tricks to make the most out of your fourth-generation Apple TV.

Mozilla to scrap Firefox support on Windows XP and Vista in 2017 – The exact timing of Firefox’s retirement from those Microsoft operating systems will be determined in the summer, according to a post to a company blog. “We expect to continue to provide security updates for [Windows XP and Windows Vista] users until September 2017,” the firm said. “In mid-2017, user numbers on Windows XP and Vista will be reassessed and a final support end date will be announced.”

CyanogenMod is dead. Long live LineageOS – Cyanogen has switched gears, leaving the Android variant CyanogenMod in the lurch, CyanogenMod’s developers aren’t giving up. They’re forking the code into LineageOS.

With Cyanogen dead, Google’s control over Android is tighter than ever – Having never realized mainstream success, the heavily altered CyanogenMod OS is kaput, and the most aggressive threat to Google’s control of Android is closing its doors.

The top 5 Microsoft announcements you likely missed this year – This was a big year for Microsoft. The HoloLens began shipping to developers, Windows 10 made it through its first year intact (though not without controversy), and the company got into the desktop computer market with a stunning mega-touchscreen. But there were a few key announcements that flew under the radar this year. While they may not have the splash factor of a Surface Studio or HoloLens, these developments have the potential to alter Microsoft and the world for years to come. Here’s the rundown on what you probably missed.

Microsoft Eyes Precision Touchpad Requirement – New rules would require all PCs with touchpads to support multitouch Windows 10 gestures.

Security:

Chrome will soon mark some HTTP pages as ‘non-secure’ – Beginning next month, the company will tag web pages that include login or credit card fields with the message “Not Secure” if the page is not served using HTTPS, the secure version of the internet protocol. The company on Tuesday began sending messages through its Google Search Console, a tool for webmasters, warning them of the changes that take place starting in January 2017. The changes are supported in version 56 or later of the Chrome browser.

It’s Incredibly Easy to Tamper with Someone’s Flight Plan, Anywhere on the Globe – It’s easier than many people realize to modify someone else’s flight booking, or cancel their flight altogether, because airlines rely on old, unsecured systems for processing customers’ travel plans, researchers will explain at the Chaos Communication Congress hacking festival on Tuesday. The issues predominantly center around the lack of any meaningful authentication for customers requesting their flight information. The issues highlight how a decades-old system is still in constant, heavy use, despite being susceptible to fairly simple attacks and with no clear means for a solution.

Sony Music Twitter hack trolled people with Britney Spears death tweets – The Sony Music Group Twitter account was recently hacked and used to send out a fake death tweet announcing the passing of singer Britney Spears. The tweet has since been removed and confirmed as false, with Sony saying it has ‘rectified’ the issue. Spears’ own manager confirmed that she has not died. It is also possible a Twitter account belonging to Bob Dylan was also accessed and used to spread the fake death news.

The 10 biggest hacks, breaches, and security stories of 2016 – It’s been a long, depressing, breach-filled year in the world of computer security. Yahoo broke the record for allowing the largest hack in history—twice. Millions of zombified webcams and DVRs took down the Internet for users in the United States. Russia was accused of “hacking the vote,” and a new type of malware earned a tidy profit extorting unsuspecting users for Bitcoin. What was it John Oliver said about 2016 (NSFW), again?

New cybersecurity guidelines for medical devices tackle evolving threats – Today, the US Food and Drug Administration released its recommendations for how medical device manufacturers should maintain the security of internet-connected devices, even after they’ve entered hospitals, patient homes, or patient bodies. Unsecured devices can allow hackers to tamper with how much medication is delivered by the device — with potentially deadly results. First issued in draft form last January, this guidance is more than a year in the making. The 30-page document encourages manufacturers to monitor their medical devices and associated software for bugs, and patch any problems that occur. But the recommendations are not legally enforceable — so they’re largely without teeth.

Company News:

Amazon’s best holiday season shipped over 1 billion items – The Seattle-based retailer giant shipped more than 1 billion items with Prime around the world for the holiday season, more than five times its sales last holiday season, between November 1 to December 19. The Echo Dot was the most coveted gift out of items shipped from Amazon, which quickly sold out. Echo devices sales spiked a record-setting nine times more than the amount sold in 2015’s holiday season.

Hulu and Disney pen major multi-year streaming movie deal – Hulu has announced a new major deal with Walt Disney Studios that gives the company exclusive streaming rights to dozens of Disney titles. According to Hulu, this is the first time it has struck a licensing deal for Disney’s ‘theatrical features,’ the likes of which include Mulan, Sister Act, Pocahontas, and more. More than fifty of the titles covered by this deal will stream on Hulu for the first time.

Qualcomm fined $853M in South Korea for unfair practices – Qualcomm may be the biggest name in the mobile application processor market, but that also means it’s an even larger target of lawsuits, be it from other companies or even government agencies. in South Korea, for example, it just got slapped a hefty fine after being found guilty of antritrust violations. According to the country’s antitrust watchdog, the chip maker exercised unfair business practices to gain a monopoly in the mobile market and edge out its rivals.

Games and Entertainment:

Netflix movie list January 2017 – what’s new, what’s done – Netflix users are preparing their minds for the possibility that January will be an end-time for some of their favorite movies and episodic series. At the same time, January is a time of rejuvenation in the streaming content universe, where such monster hit movies as the original Superman: The Movie and The Shining begin to be available. This is also the time at which the Netflix Original series Lemony Snicket’s A series of Unfortunate Events begins. That’s Netflix’ own series, not the Jim Carrey movie – fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your taste.

Attention, cord-cutters: Here are the best internet video streaming services – Internet streaming services, such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now are getting to be almost as expensive as cable services, but Amazon Video, Netflix, and Hulu are still bargains.

Why DVDs and Blu-rays remain essential in the age of streaming – Why purchase a single movie for someone when Netflix, Amazon Prime, and a growing number of other streaming services offer libraries with thousands of films and TV shows for a monthly price less than the cost of a single new movie on disc? If you did find movies on disc under this tree this year, or if you picked up a few with holiday gift cards, count yourself lucky: Physical media remains superior to streaming in nearly every way as a technical experience. But even more than that, owning movies yourself helps build an emotional connection that’s hard to replicate with streaming.

The 10 best games to use a Steam Gift Card on right now – For a lot of PC gamers, Christmas means one thing: Steam gift cards. The holiday season is the perfect time to fill your Steam wallet, too, as we find ourselves smack in the middle of the Steam winter sale. With nearly 16,000 games on sale, there’s a truly overwhelming number of options, so here are a few ideas that might help you get your spending spree rolling.

10 amazing games you may have missed this year – 2016 was a great year for big games. There were fantastic sequels like Uncharted 4 and Final Fantasy XV, long-awaited adventures like The Witness and The Last Guardian, along with fantastic indie gems like Firewatch and Inside. But amidst all of the big names, the year was also filled with many smaller, yet equally enticing experiences that you may have missed. There’s everything from cute horror games to futuristic puzzle boxes to heartbreaking true stories. Here are 10 of my favorite hidden gems from 2016.

Frog Fractions 2 found hidden within a game about fairies – The game Frog Fractions 2, a sequel to the oddity Frog Factions, has been discovered in a Steam game about fairies. The discovery comes two years after the Kickstarter for Frog Fractions 2 launched, and is the end result of a bunch of clues and hunting amongst fans. The discovery was ultimately made when the fairy game — Glittermitten Grove — received a large update at the same time a video of a button press ‘launching’ Frog Fractions 2 was published.

Game on! The best board games of 2016 – The tireless members of the Ars Cardboard crew spent a lot of time playing, replaying, and dissecting the year’s new titles, and we’re ready to tell you what we enjoyed most. So here, in no particular order, are our 20 favorite tabletop games of 2016—along with a few runners-up and notable new editions.

Off Topic (Sort of):

‘Duck Dynasty’ vs. ‘Modern Family’: 50 Maps of the U.S. Cultural Divide – Americans have been clustering themselves into cultural bubbles just as they have clustered in political bubbles. Their TV preferences confirm that.

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Fix Your Sleep, Be More Productive – The holidays are a great time to fix your sleep problems. With our tips and the right tech, you can sleep better and be more productive in the new year.

FinTech and Blockchain: Are banks dead? – A top financial services technology executive and enterprise blockchain guru explains what you need to know.

Smart home turns informant: Police want Echo and IoT data in murder case – Your smart home could turn into a police informant, if investigators in Arkansas can set a precedent that data from connected devices like Amazon’s Echo be seized as murder case evidence. The police force in Bentonville served Amazon with a warrant for recordings made by an Echo smart speaker, after it potentially heard details around a murder that took place in the home. However, Alexa wasn’t the only inadvertent potential witness to the alleged crime.

Diving into the unthinkable cold truths of a nuclear war – Last Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump issued a few statements (guess where) about America’s military, with this statement as a kicker: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its sense regarding nukes.” Despite Trump’s assertion, the world has come to its senses about nukes (and not just in Hollywood). Political consensus over issues like denuclearization has been fairly stable since the 1980s, thanks in part to scientific researchers showing what would happen to a world ravaged by nuclear bombs. One such study was The Medical Implications of Nuclear War, published by Fred Solomon and Robert Q. Marston in 1986. This rigorous and grim estimate of nuclear war’s effects on our planet is written in a bleak manner for good reason: to scare us straight.

Trump Tales:

The Atlantic: Donald Trump’s False Bragging About His Charitable Giving – Once again, the president-elect is trying to mislead the public about his philanthropy. Even the most unsparing critic of the news media cannot deny the tremendous effort put forth by Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold as he spent months doggedly trying to document all of Donald Trump’s donations to charity. The task wasn’t easy—the candidate refused to release his tax returns—so Fahrenthold probed records going back decades, repeatedly questioned the Trump campaign, and contacted more than 400 nonprofit organizations while showing his work. His thoroughness was a sight to see. For example:

The Washington Post: Even when he’s got a point on the economy, Trump can’t help but overplay his hand – Isolating and exaggerating good news isn’t unique to Donald Trump. What makes him different is that his willingness to take credit or assign blame tends toward the extremes.

The New York Times: California, at Forefront of Climate Fight, Won’t Back Down to Trump – President-elect Donald J. Trump has packed his cabinet with nominees who dispute the science of global warming. He has signaled he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He has belittled the notion of global warming and attacked policies intended to combat it. But California — a state that has for 50 years been a leader in environmental advocacy — is about to step unto the breach. In a show of defiance, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and legislative leaders said they would work directly with other nations and states to defend and strengthen what were already far and away the most aggressive policies to fight climate change in the nation. That includes a legislatively mandated target of reducing carbon emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Something to think about:

“I listened as you called my President a Muslim.

I listened as you called him and his family a pack of monkeys.

I listened as you said he wasn’t born here.

I watched as you blocked every single path to progress that you could.

I saw the pictures you made of him as Hitler.

I watched you shut down the government and hurt the entire nation, twice.

I watched you turn your backs on every opportunity to open a worthwhile dialog.

I watched you say that you would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was.

I listened as you openly said that you will oppose him at every turn.

I watched as you did just that.

I listened.

I watched.

I paid attention.

Now, I’m being called on to be tolerant.

To move forward.

To denounce protesters.

To “Get over it.”

To accept this…

I will not.

I will do my part to make sure, this great American mistake, becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.

I will do this as quickly as possible, every chance I get.

I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.

I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.

I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to you.

The people who voted for him. Yes you, the ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.

I will do this so that you never forget.

And you will hear me.

You will see it in my eyes when I look at you.

You will hear it in my voice when I talk to you.

You will know that I know who you are.

You will know that I know what you are.

Do not call for my tolerance. I’ve tolerated all I can.

Now it’s your turn to tolerate the ridicule.

Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day forward is now Trump’s fault just as much as you thought it was Obama’s.

I find it unreasonable for you to expect from me, what you were entirely unwilling to give.”

–   Comment (The Rest of America) – Washington Post – December 27, 2017

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Hiding your tracks from Trump: Online privacy worries heat up – There’s something about a Donald Trump administration in charge of the US National Security Agency that has folks taking government surveillance very seriously.

Encrypted email provider ProtonMail and encrypted chat service Signal saw a spike in new users after the election. What’s more, privacy advocates say they’re hearing from more people who are interested in covering up their tracks online.

Eva Galperin, a global policy analyst at the privacy-oriented Electronic Frontier Foundation, said she’s received more requests for trainings than usual since the election. Concerned internet users include journalists and activists, Galperin said. Driving these groups’ fears is uncertainty over how an unpredictable Trump administration will handle its profound surveillance power.

“What protects most of us are just subjective norms,” Galperin said. “The government didn’t individually target people [with surveillance] because of subjective norms, but those change over time.”

Whatever your reasons for wanting to keep your personal information, communications and browsing habits private, it’s a complicated task.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 26, 2016

8 critical things to do immediately with a new PC;  The best apps for your new Windows 10 PC;  How to customize your Windows PC with Winaero Tweaker;  The best apps for your new Mac;  How to recycle your phone for cash;  Six Smart Person’s Guides you may have missed;  How to sell or swap gift cards;  This low-cost device may be the world’s best hope against account takeovers – and much more news you need to know.

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8 critical things to do immediately with a new PC – So you’ve got a new PC. Awesome! That humble metal box is the key to a wide world of potential. It can help you with everything from juggling your finances to keeping in touch with Grandma to blowing off some steam on, uh, Steam. But a new PC isn’t like a new car; you can’t just turn a key and put the pedal to the metal. Okay, maybe you can—but you shouldn’t. Performing just a few simple activities when you first fire it up can help it be safer, faster, and better poised for the future. Here’s how to set up a new PC the right way, step by step.

The best apps for your new Windows 10 PC – Congratulations! You just unwrapped a new Windows 10 PC for the holidays! Now you’re wondering what the best apps are to install on your new machine. Fortunately, we’re here to help, with some of our top picks to try out on your new PC.

Your new PC needs these 15 free, excellent programs – Yes, stocking your PC is an intensely personal task. Even still, some programs are so helpful, so handy, so useful across the board that we heartily recommend them to everybody. These are the programs you want to install on a new PC first.

How to customize your Windows PC with Winaero Tweaker – Winaero Tweaker lets you do deep system customizations that require meddling in the registry, without directly meddling in the registry.

The best apps for your new Mac – So you got a new Mac, huh? Lucky! I’ve been using a Mac as my primary computer on and off for about 20 years. I have a PC for games, but nothing beats a Mac yet for the modern media professional. Here are a few apps I use to get the job done.

‘My computer is slow’: 5 quick tips for troubleshooting friends and family over the holidays – Do you end up as tech support for relatives and others over the holidays? Here are five quick tips to help you resolve their speed problems.

9 Alexa tips and tricks – Amazon’s Echo, Echo Dot and Tap devices can do more than just check the weather and sling playlists.

Google Home: 11 tips and tricks to get started – The Google Home is one of those devices that the more you use it, the more you discover it can do. For example, did you know you can call an Uber using the Google Home? Or what about playing YouTube videos on your TV without touching a single remote or device? It’s all possible, and then some.

How to recycle your phone for cash – So you’re about ready to offload your old phone for a new one (our top picks here if you need some inspiration). The next step is to figure out what to do with your old phone. You could keep it as a spare, or give it to a family member or friend. Or, you could try to get cash, credit or trade-in value. This applies to ancient, cracked, broken phones and other electronics you don’t want hanging around anymore, either — you may be able to still get a few bucks, or at least get rid of them responsibly. Don’t count on raking in the big bucks, but if you’re smart about it, you can get a decent deal.

How to sell or swap gift cards – It’s hard to mess up a generic gift like a gift card, but it’s definitely possible. If you’re the proud owner of some gift cards that you’re never going to use, this is the article for you. Instead of dumping those unwanted gift cards in your junk drawer for future re-gifting, why not try your hand at selling or swapping them online?

How to Register a Domain Name for Your Website – Every business needs a website, and the first step is registering a domain name. Our primer will tell you all you need to know to get the job done.

Attention, cord-cutters: Here are the best internet video streaming services – Internet streaming services, such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now are getting to be almost as expensive as cable services, but Amazon Video, Netflix, and Hulu are still bargains.

Google Pixel now reported to randomly freeze for minutes – Google may have broken out the champagne a wee bit too early for its Pixel smartphones. After a brief but pleasant honeymoon, owners are slowly discovering the warts hiding under the pretty facade. The latest string of user complaints involve the Pixel smartphones randomly freezing and becoming unusable under still unreproducible circumstances. It is, however, just the latest in what looks like a growing list of complaints and issues plaguing the first “made by Google” smartphone.

Six Smart Person’s Guides you may have missed – Microsoft released numerous applications and updates in 2016, and TechRepublic covered them with our Smart Person’s Guides. Mark Kaelin lists six that are worth a revisit.

The top 15 TechRepublic must-watch videos from 2016 – Wondering which important videos you may have missed from TR this year? Here are 15 you need to see.

Security:

This low-cost device may be the world’s best hope against account takeovers – A two-year study of more than 50,000 Google employees concludes that cryptographically based Security Keys beat out smartphones and most other forms of two-factor verification. The Security Keys are based on Universal Second Factor, an open standard that’s easy for end users to use and straightforward for engineers to stitch into hardware and websites. When plugged into a standard USB port, the keys provide a “cryptographic assertion” that’s just about impossible for attackers to guess or phish. Accounts can require that cryptographic key in addition to a normal user password when users log in. Google, Dropbox, GitHub, and other sites have already implemented the standard into their platforms.

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The Worst Hacks of 2016 – It’s that time of the year again, where we recap the worst or biggest hacks of the previous 365 days, and try to convince you that, yes, this was the worst year for security ever. It’s not quite like that. Plus, every year has been called the worst year, or the year of data breaches, for at least five years now. Perhaps the reality is that we will always have data breaches and hacks. 2016 was no different, but it’s fair to say it actually had some of the most shocking cyberattacks we’ve ever seen. Here’s a handy list to remind you of all the things that got badly pwned this year.

Camera Makers Aren’t in a Hurry to Add Encryption – Last week, over 150 filmmakers and photojournalists asked major camera manufacturers to build encryption into devices. But the companies don’t seem that keen.

Company News:

Snapchat has quietly acquired an Israeli startup for a reported $30 million to $40 million – Snapchat sewed up its first acquisition in Israel this week, according to the outlet Calcalist News. It acquired four-year-old Cimagine, whose augmented reality platform lets consumers instantly visualize products they want to buy in their intended location, paying what Calcalist says was between $30 million and $40 million. According to its LinkedIn page, Cimagine currently works with brands like Jerome’s, a furniture store franchise in Southern California; the U.K.-based digital retailer Shop Direct; and the global giant Coca Cola — its cloud-based mobile platform aiming to help these companies augment their sites and mobile apps and boost online conversion rates and in-store sales in the process.

After Super Mario Run, Nintendo plans 2 or 3 new mobile games per year – Super Mario Run may have its detractors, but it’s also managed to rack up nearly 10 million downloads per day in its App Store debut, officially topping 50 million downloads as of Friday. Those numbers, combined with its early revenue generating power, have Nintendo still keen on exploring more in mobile, with plans to release around two or three new mobile games per year beyond 2017. That’s according to a new interview with Nintendo’s president Tatsumi Kimishima (via MacWorld), wherein the Nintendo executive says that two or three games are on the roadmap for next year, too – reportedly an Animal Crossing and a Fire Emblem game, thought plans might change.

Dutch regulators order T-Mobile to stop offering free music streaming over net neutrality concerns – T-Mobile’s no-data-charge-music-streaming-thing has been going strong since 2014 here in the States, with the company adding services to the offering one by one. The Netherlands version of the promotion ran into significant headwinds this week, however, as regulators at the Dutch Consumer and Markets  (AFM) officially ordered the carrier to stop offering the “zero rating” feature over concerns that it constitutes a threat to net neutrality. T-Mobile Netherlands, which introduced the service on October 10, will be hit with a $52,000 a day fine if it refuses to comply to yesterday’s ruling.

Fitbit drops case to block Jawbone imports to US – A Friday filing puts an end to just one of the legal disputes between the fitness-tracker rivals. Meanwhile, Jawbone’s failing finances may be the bigger issue.

Cyanogen shutting down services and OS by December 31 – Rocky times at Cyanogen turn for the worse. The open source project and source code will remain available, but there will be no more nightly builds.

Games and Entertainment:

The best games for your new PC or Mac – You’ve just unwrapped your shiny new laptop, desktop, or MacBook. Now, what are you going to play on it? Whether you’ve got a gaming powerhouse that can render the true face of God or just an all-purpose computer, there’s a lot to choose from. (If you’ve got a VR headset, there are even more options, which we’re breaking down separately.) Here are a few of our favorite picks.

The best games for your new Xbox One – You just unwrapped a new Xbox One (or Xbox One S) for the holidays! Now you’re wondering what the best games are to play on Microsoft’s latest console. Fortunately, we’re here to help, with some of our top picks to try out on your new machine.

The best games for your new PS4 – Well hello there, new PlayStation 4 (or PS4 Pro) owner! If you’ve just unwrapped your very first Sony console for this generation, you might be wondering where to start, game-wise. This feeling of giddiness and even a pinch of anxiety is normal. But, you’re not alone, friend. We’ve got this list to get you started.

The best games for your new iPhone, iPad, or Android phone – If you aren’t already an active mobile gamer, even at this point, you’re missing out on quite a bit of both simple and even deeply involved experiences — and if this holiday, you happened to upgrade your device to the latest and greatest, we’ve got a couple of suggestions. Here are a few of our picks to get through the end of 2016 and beyond.

Got a 4K TV? Here Are the First 10 Things to Watch and Play On It – If you’ve made the leap or are planning to soon, then you ought to know what’s waiting for you on the other side: not a ton of great stuff just yet, but plenty of quality content to watch and play. Here are our 10 top picks as of now, spanning a variety of devices, platforms, and experiences, ensuring that you’re ready to sample the best of what 4K has to offer today.

Off Topic (Sort of):

See the Most Googled Person in Each Country in 2016 – People across the globe were more curious about Donald Trump than anyone else this year. The president-elect earned the distinction of being the top-trending person in 88 countries in 2016, far more places than anyone else in the world, according to data Google provided to TIME. Check out our interactive map below to see the full results, which reflect the person in each country who experienced the largest jump in search rate from 2015 to 2016, according to Google. (Note that Google narrowed this year’s list to include only people who are alive.)

The future of robotics: 10 predictions for 2017 and beyond – What does the future hold for robotics? It’s hard to say, given the rapid pace of change in the field as well as in associated areas such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. But one thing seems certain: Robots will play an increasingly important role in business and life in general. Research firm International Data Corp’s (IDC) Manufacturing Insights Worldwide Commercial Robotics program recently unveiled its top 10 predictions for worldwide robotics for 2017 and beyond. The list has some interesting forecasts, and if they come true, they will likely have a significant impact on business and society.

D’oh! 2016’s Biggest Tech Fails – Thankfully for this list, 2016 wasn’t any less full of serious tech fails. In fact, it’s been a bumper year for gadgets that explode, break, or leave us asking “why?” Even Apple decided to get in on the action, and more than once! There’s also a hint of death, some security blunders, and the serious issue of trying to name a ship. So sit back, get that mouse-clicking finger ready, and enjoy our pick of the biggest tech fails of the year. Surely, 2017 can’t be any worse…right?

Quantum Leap: Researchers Send Information Using a Single Particle of Light – According to research published Thursday in Science, physicists at Princeton University have designed a device that allows a single electron to pass its quantum information to a photon in what could be a big breakthrough for silicon-based quantum computers. “We now have the ability to actually transmit the quantum state to a photon,” said Xiao Mi, a graduate student in Princeton’s Department of Physics. “This has never been done before in a semiconductor device because the quantum state was lost before it could transfer its information.”

Is this the age of the smart wallet, or are they more trouble than they’re worth? – If your smart wallet is lost or stolen, you can locate or track it with a smartphone. That’s a cool idea, and it has attracted several crowd-funded projects such as Cashew, Ekster, SmartWallet, Walli, Wallor and Woolet. However, small, standalone trackers like TrackR’s may do the job cheaper, and they’re less risky purchases.

Trump Tales:

Silicon Valley’s Trump rebellion now has EFF calling for more encryption – The Electronic Frontier Foundation is keenly worried that President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will step up surveillance activities and pass laws to curtail electronic rights. As a result, the EFF is advising the tech sector to use end-to-end encryption for every transaction by default, and to scrub logs. “You cannot be made to surrender data you do not have,” the EFF said. The EFF has assembled evidence it believes justifies this call for action. That includes Trump’s call for forcing Apple to open the iPhone owned by one the San Bernardino attackers.

Memo to Trump: We’re Already Updating the US Nuclear Arsenal – President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter three days before Christmas to freak everyone out about nukes.

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That’s Cold War talk, made worse by similar statements from Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin.

“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” Putin said during a Dec. 22, 2016 discussion with Kremlin military officials. He said Moscow would push for “missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.”

The world’s nuclear arms control community proceeded to freak out. Trump followed up to MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Dec. 23. “Let it be an arms race … we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Trump said.

On Twitter, Trump supports Putin’s mockery of Democrats – It’s Christmas, a time of peace and love, but the concepts of winning and losing continue to fill Donald Trump’s mind. And, of course, fill his Twitter feed. On Friday, the president-elect considered the plight of the Democrats, those losers who can’t believe they lost. He used not his own well-chosen words, but borrowed those of Vladimir Putin. “Vladimir Putin said today about Hillary and Dems: ‘In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity.’ So true!” he tweeted. It still must be quaint for many to see an American president-elect seeming to be such an admirer of a Russian president. Especially a Russian president who is accused of eliminating opponents by force, rather than even risk losing to them in any way.

Donald Trump rages at A-list celebrities on Twitter – Commentary: Amid reports it’s not been easy to get famous performers for his inauguration, the president-elect snorts at the famous.

Something to think about:

“In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.”

–      Eric Schmidt – University of Pennsylvania Commencement Address, 2009

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Privacy is still alive and kicking in the digital age – Our lives are lived in data. Data crossing borders and connected in virtual space. Most often, it appears, we live in open and too easily accessible data networks. States and corporations are watching us through data, and we are watching each other through data. What does individual privacy mean in this data saturated environment?

Privacy is like trust and security; much easier to define when you don’t have it. We know exactly what trust and security are when we find ourselves in a precarious situation where we feel threatened, a situation which reveals someone else’s lie or dishonest actions. It’s something that can make us feel angry, insecure and most importantly, disempowered.

The same is true of privacy; it’s hard to put a finger on it before we realize it’s missing. More and more of us are beginning to sense the lack of privacy in our digital daily lives — and to understand what we are missing and how we feel about it. (continued)

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 23, 2016

Digital forensics: The smart person’s guide;  How to improve the security and privacy of your iPhone: 5 steps;  How to Share Your Phone’s Internet Connection;  How to record audio with OneNote;  How to use G Cloud, a complete Android backup solution;  Samsung Smart TV update forces users to see ads;  Super Mario Run: 10 tips to master the game;  Raspberry Pi’s Pixel for PC and Mac breathes new life into old computers;  BitTorrent’s live video app is now available on iOS;  The 33 Best Amazon Fire Tablet Apps – and much more news you need to know.

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Digital forensics: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about digital forensics, the science of recovering data from computers, networks, mobile phones, and IoT devices.

How to Share Your Phone’s Internet Connection – This capability is available on most iPhone and Android devices, and can be activated by navigating to your phone’s settings menu. Once the hotspot is turned on, your phone will begin broadcasting a password-protected Wi-Fi network that you can access on other electronics. The video above will walk you through how to get your hotspot up and running.

The 33 Best Amazon Fire Tablet Apps – Amazon’s Appstore has an ever-growing list of apps; here are the ones you need now.

6 cool ways to use Alexa on the Amazon Fire tablet – Now that Amazon’s voice-powered assistant has made her way to the company’s tablet, find out how to make the most of her.

How to use G Cloud, a complete Android backup solution – If you’re looking for a way to get a more complete Android backup solution than is offered by Google, Jack Wallen thinks G Cloud Backup is the answer.

How to troubleshoot a flakey Windows 10 system with the Memory Diagnostics Tool – Don’t rule out bad memory when encountering problems in Windows 10. The Memory Diagnostics Tool can help you zero in on defective RAM.

How to record audio with OneNote to supercharge your note-taking – OneNote’s audio recording feature links your notes to specific points in the recording. Here’s how it works.

Raspberry Pi’s Pixel for PC and Mac breathes new life into old computers – Pixel is a lightweight operating system with a clean desktop UI released by the foundation behind the affordable, tinker-friendly Raspberry Pi $35 computer in September, and now it’s available for PC or Mac users who might want to throw old hardware into renewed service. The lightweight Linux-based OS now comes as a downloadable image you can either burn to a DVD or load onto a USB drive, letting you boot directly into the Pixel environment on any Mac or PC that has at least 512MB of RAM and an x86 processor. That means if you have an old laptop lying around, like the OG plastic MacBook or an ancient ThinkPad, you could get it going again with a modern OS for basic tasks, including web browsing via Chromium which is pre-installed. Other software in Pixel includes a select suite of productivity software and programming tools, and it’s all built on Debian, which itself has a wide range of free software available.

15 tips for organizing your Gmail – You don’t have to dread opening your Gmail account — there are lots of ways to tweak Gmail for a more efficient and organized experience. Here are 15 tips that will help you get closer to the elusive dream of Inbox Zero.

Opera Max ‘VIP Mode’ gives unlimited data saving…and puts an ad on your phone – Opera offers an Android app designed to reduce the amount of mobile data you use throughout the day, and it’s pretty great at doing so. That has resulted in somewhere around 50 million Android users actively using the app every month, and Opera found itself in a bit of a pickle: while the free app shows an advertisement when you’re within the app, there was little reason to actually open the app and thus no one was looking at these ads with any sort of regularity. The company recently introduced a limitation that addresses that issue, and users weren’t happy, so now the company is back with yet another change: VIP Mode.

BitTorrent’s live video app is now available on iOS – Half a year after its initial release back in May, BitTorrent Live is finally making its way to iOS. BitTorrent Live is already available on the Fire TV, Apple TV, and macOS, and is now coming to its first mobile platform after a delay following plans to launch on iOS in June. And while the service still offers a somewhat lackluster offering of 16 channels — the highlights of which include NASA, One World Sports, and France 24 — it’s the technology behind BitTorrent Live that makes it significant.

WhatsApp update: how to edit and delete messages – This week the folks at WhatsApp have updated their app to include the ability to edit and delete messages with one big caveat. If the messages have been read, they’ll no longer be able to be edited or deleted. This update will be available for download soon- we’ll be including the link to the download as soon as it becomes available in the post you’re reading right this minute.

Pana’s travel companion app goes free, can automatically check you into flights – Pana, a travel companion that organizes your plans and sends personalized trip alerts, is now making its app free to challenge rivals like TripIt, Google Trips and others. First launched two years ago, Pana had previously focused on its paid subscription service for individuals and companies needing a 24/7 travel concierge — a move that may have limited its potential market. The free app (ver. 3.0), launched this week, brings a wide set of Pana’s features to those who may not be frequent fliers in need of Pana’s more hands-on service. The result is a useful travel companion that can help you plan, organize and access your trip information, even when you’re offline.

Signal’s private chat app uses Google to stay uncensored – Signal, the encrypted messaging app endorsed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, just received rather significant update. No, we’re not referring to the new stickers and doodling functionality. Those are just a front for the real meat of the update. In almost a similar fashion, Signal now uses a “front”, specifically a domain front utilizing Google.com, in order to circumvent current and future government censorship that would block an app that is reported to be in popular use among activists, advocates, and even dissidents.

Buying a laptop, last-minute holiday shopper? We can help – Want to give someone a laptop this Christmas, but can’t decide which machine to choose? CNET’s Marguerite Reardon offers some advice.

Talking holiday toys that can become your kid’s digital friend – Siri and Alexa are great voice assistants, but they aren’t necessarily great for playtime. That’s where these toys come in: They all respond to different voice commands to make toy time engaging.

Security:

How to improve the security and privacy of your iPhone: 5 steps – Protecting the data on your smartphone is paramount. Here are five simple changes you can enact to make your iPhone more secure.

The new Barnes & Noble Nooks come with free malware – Barnes & Noble began outsourcing its Nook e-readers a few years ago after a partnership with Samsung and their latest $50 Nook 7 android tablet, announced last month, shows us how that has worked out for them. Their latest e-reader includes ADUPS, a firmware that sends user data back to the manufacturer or an interested hacker. This is the same malware that researchers found on cheap Blu tablets and phones last month.

Facebook streamlines the login process with Instant Verification – The Android-exclusive feature uses your phone number to bypass one-time password entries.

Why Malwarebytes detects PC Pitstop as Potentially Unwanted – PC Pitstop makes several products including PC Matic, PC Magnum, Optimize, Driver Alert, and Disk MD. As of a few weeks ago, we detect these products as PUP.Optional, here is why.

The group that hacked the DNC infiltrated Ukrainian artillery units – The cyberespionage group blamed for hacking into the U.S. Democratic National Committee (DNC) has also infiltrated the Ukrainian military through a trojanized Android application used by artillery units.

Company News:

Google sued by employee for confidentiality policies that ‘muzzle’ staff – A product manager at Google has sued the company over its allegedly illegal confidentiality rules, which, among other things, prohibit employees from speaking even internally about illegal conduct and dangerous product defects for fear that such statements may be used in lawsuits or sought by the government. The alleged policies, which are said to violate California laws, restrict employees’ right to speak, work or whistle-blow, and include restrictions on speaking to the government, attorneys or the press about wrongdoing at Google or even “speaking to spouse or friends about whether they think their boss could do a better job,” according to a complaint filed Tuesday in the Superior Court of California for the city and county of San Francisco.

Uber forced to remove self-driving cars from San Francisco roads – The California Department of Motor Vehicles has today revoked the registrations for Uber’s fleet of 16 self-driving cars, forcing the company to remove the vehicles from the streets of San Francisco where they were being used. The move comes after Uber refused to apply for a $150 permit that would designate the cars as test vehicles, and allow them to be used on Californian roads, with the company arguing that the documentation didn’t apply to its specific self-driving cars.

Uber is moving its self-driving cars from San Francisco to Arizona – Uber is relocating its San Francisco self-driving car fleet to Arizona, where it says it has the support of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. The fleet of cars were hauled away on flat-beds towed by Uber’s Otto self-driving big rigs, though the trucks do not appear to have been autonomously driving to Arizona. The move comes after California’s Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the registration of Uber’s 16 self-driving cars because the company refused to apply for the appropriate permits for testing autonomous cars.

Google cut its 2015 tax bill by $3.6 billion using the infamous Dutch Sandwich loophole – Google was able to shave $3.6 billion from its 2015 tax bill by relying on an elaborate system of loopholes known as the “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich,” according to a report from Bloomberg today. The loopholes — infamous among US corporations — effectively allow companies as large and profitable as Google to shuffle profits through subsidiaries in low-tax countries like the Netherlands and Ireland, and then onward to tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. In this case, Google moved $15.5 billion worth of euros to a Bermuda shell company, cutting its tax rate outside the US to 6.9 percent last year, according to regulatory filings in the Netherlands that were obtained by Bloomberg.

Twitter overcharged video advertisers, issues refunds – Now it’s Twitter copying Facebook… but in the worst way. Following several embarrassing disclosures of inaccurate metrics by Facebook, today Business Insider’s Alex Heath broke news that Twitter overcharged some advertisers. Between November 7th and December 12th, a source tells BI that video ad buyers were overcharged up to 35 percent. Twitter apparently informed these advertisers earlier this week and issued refunds, but didn’t publicly announce anything until after BI’s report today. In a short, extremely vague blog post, Twitter writes that “We discovered a technical error due to a Twitter product update to Android clients that affected some video ad campaigns.” It doesn’t mention that advertisers were over-billed or that they’ve been issued refunds.

Nokia files even more patent lawsuits against Apple – Nokia filed new patent infringement lawsuits against Apple on Thursday, a day after it weighed in on a licensing dispute with the company by filing claims in Germany and the U.S. On Wednesday, the Finland-based mobile network vendor filed lawsuits in three German courts and two lawsuits in a Texas court, leveling infringement claims against Apple on the widely used H.264 video codec and other technologies. Those suits cover 32 of Nokia’s patents.

Games and Entertainment:

Steam’s Winter sale 2016 has begun: Hide your wallets! – As the all-knowing PayPal foretold, the Steam winter sale for 2016 has begun. Like all the sales before it, this one brings plenty of discounts on much of Steam’s catalog. The sale will last until January 2nd as well, giving you plenty of time to consider your options.

Rent any movie from Google or Amazon this Christmas for just $0.99 – Google and Amazon have both launched holiday promotions for their online movie rental services. You can head over to Google Play and grab any title (including a number of recent blockbusters) for $0.99, or do the same at Amazon Video using the promo code “MOVIE99.” In both cases, you can only get one movie per account, and you have until January 23rd 2017 to redeem the offer. So, if you don’t fancy using it up for Christmas, you can always wait until the New Year.

RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic launches for Android and iOS – Atari has launched RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic, a new mobile game for iOS and Android that brings together the best of Rollercoaster Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. The game is available for the most popular mobile devices: Android phones and tablets, the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, for $5.99 USD. This game follows RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile.

Super Mario Run: 10 tips to master the game – Unless you’re a gamer hiding under a rock, you have probably heard about Nintendo’s real first mobile game. And unless you have a phobia of Italian plumbers in jumpers, you’ve probably already tried Super Mario run for a short while or are just about to. The game’s deceptive simplicity belies the somewhat non-trivial mechanics operating behind the scenes. Whether you’re a complete novice, a returning player, or a stumped regular, these tips could help you gain an edge and populate your self-established kingdoms with psychedelic and inappropriately named mushroom people.

Samsung Smart TV update forces users to see ads – Samsung recently updated its televisions to make viewing ads mandatory if you want to use the Smart TV features. If you haven’t recently invested in a set, it may be time to take Samsung permanently off your screens — at least until it stops requiring you view ads in perpetuity on hardware you already paid for.

Vane on PS4 lets you spread your wings in a forgotten desert – Did you like Journey or Absu? Then you should keep an eye on this upcoming PlayStation 4 title.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Canada declares ‘high-speed’ internet essential for quality of life – Canada has recognized the obvious and declared high-speed broadband internet access a “basic telecommunications service” that every citizen should be able to access. Previously, only landline telephone services had received this designation from the country’s national telecoms regulator, CRTC, and the change is supported by a government investment package of up to $750 million to wire up rural areas.

Panda vs. snowman is the showdown we all need to see – In “Frozen,” Anna famously asked sister Elsa if she wanted to build a snowman. But everyone knows the real fun isn’t in building something, it’s in breaking it. Or so a giant panda named Da Mao seems to think. The Toronto Zoo posted a video Tuesday of Da Mao taking apart a snowman like Clubber Lang knocking out Rocky, only way cuter. The zookeepers built the panda the snow figure for “enrichment,” the YouTube video claims, and it certainly did seem to enrich his ability to Hulk Smash things.

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Food for thought: 10 bits of Android analysis worth chewing over this holiday season – From useful insights on the evolution of Google services to important perspective on the future of Android, these original analyses are must-reads for anyone interested in mobile technology.

Tesla tops 2016 owner satisfaction survey as VW plummets – Tesla has taken the top spot in a customer satisfaction survey, with more owners of the electric car saying they’d buy another than any other automaker brand. The results of Consumer Reports’ 2016 Annual Owner Satisfaction Survey see Tesla once again in pole position, with Porsche and Audi keeping hold of their second and third place spots. However, there’s some sizable movement elsewhere in the rankings, particularly after this year’s “dieselgate”.

States that enact medical marijuana laws see dips in fatal car crashes – Medical marijuana may save lives out on the road as well as in clinics, according to a new study. When examining 19 states that had medical marijuana laws on the books by 2014, researchers found that their average rate of traffic deaths fell 11 percent after the laws were enacted. The happy side-effect wasn’t uniform, however; only seven states saw significant reductions, while two states saw increases. Nevertheless, the authors of the new report in the American Journal of Public Health argue that the data bucks the common criticism that more pot access should increase car crashes and injuries.

This bed with built-in subwoofer, TV, lamp and power outlets may be your last purchase, ever – Furlenco’s new “Pod” might just be the most outrageous product hitting the market this holiday season. The Bangalore, India based furniture rental startup has always had a penchant for targeting the millennial subset, but this is something else entirely — because as any 20-something knows, adding a bed to things makes them universally more practical. The Pod includes a 32-inch mounted television, Bluetooth connectivity, 2:1 channel speakers with a serious subwoofer, an adjustable reading light, ports to charge your gear, a bookshelf and, for good measure, a bed.

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EPA now concedes fracking is a hazard to drinking water – After a year-long review of the data, the EPA has concluded that fracking poses a systemic danger to clean groundwater. But it’s not necessarily inherent to the technology of fracking itself. Human handling is a lot of the problem.

Trump Tales:

What’s standing between Donald Trump and nuclear war? – When President-elect Donald Trump officially becomes the president of the United States in January, he will take complete control of America’s nuclear arsenal. Should he decide to start a nuclear war, there are no legal safeguards to stop him. Instead, a much less tangible web of norms, taboos, and fears has reined in US presidents since World War II. But as North Korea escalates its nuclear weapons tests, Russia promises to strengthen its nuclear forces, and the president-elect of the United States openly tweets that the US must “strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” experts worry that this fragile web could start to tear.

Oracle staffer quits over co-CEO’s support for Trump – George Polisner publishes his resignation letter on LinkedIn, with unkind words for the president-elect.

“Trump stokes fear, hatred and violence toward people of color, Muslims and immigrants,” he said. “It is well-known that hate crimes are surging as he has provided license for this ignorance-based expression of malice.”

Jetblue Passengers Kicked Off Flight for Harassing Ivanka Trump – Jetblue has confirmed that two passengers were kicked off a flight for verbally harassing Ivanka Trump. The daughter of President-elect Donald Trump was seated on a commercial flight in New York Thursday morning when a male passenger reportedly began shouting at her, according to The Wrap. “Your father is ruining the country,” he said. “She should be flying private.” The airline then removed both the offending passenger and his husband from the plane, prompting the former to ask, “You’re kicking me off for expressing my opinion?”

Obama Blocked Trump from Drilling the Arctic and Atlantic With This Obscure Law – In a preemptive move, President Obama invoked a little-known law to permanently keep oil and gas drilling out of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

Obama ending program that tracked Muslim travelers before Trump can use it – President Obama will officially end a controversial Bush-era registration program that largely affected travelers from Muslim-majority nations, the Department of Homeland Security has announced. Donald Trump’s advisers have suggested the program could be revived under his administration, but the preemptive move by Obama may partially head off those efforts.

Documents suggest Palantir could help power Trump’s ‘extreme vetting’ of immigrants – Training materials obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center show Palantir has played a role in a far-reaching customs system

Something to think about:

“First there is a time when we believe everything, then for a little while we believe with discrimination, then we believe nothing whatever, and then we believe everything again – and, moreover, give reasons why we believe.”

–       Georg Christoph Lichtenberg   (1742 – 1799)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Government Requests for Facebook Data Up 27 Percent – Governments worldwide requested Facebook users’ data nearly 60,000 times in the first half of 2016, a 27 percent increase over requests made in the second half of 2015, according to a Facebook bi-annual report published this week.

In addition to government requests for user data, the report details which content Facebook restricts for violating local laws. The company says it studies each request carefully to determine whether or not it has merit, especially in emergency cases where imminent risk of serious injury or harm is involved. It ultimately handed over data in 80 percent of cases.

The 27 percent jump for the latest reporting period compares to a 13 percent increase between the first and second halves of 2015, and 18 percent growth between the second half of 2014 and the first half of 2015. The majority of the requests came from law enforcement agencies in the US. Of those, the most common were related to search warrants—13,742 out of 23,854.

Mass internet surveillance is unlawful say judges in blow to Snoopers’ Charter – The UK government’s controversial Snoopers’ Charter was dealt a blow today, after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that “general and indiscriminate” retention of online traffic is unlawful.

The ECJ’s ruling comes just one month after the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), better known as the Snoopers’ Charter, which requires internet providers to record every customer’s top-level web browsing history for up to one year.

However, according to the ECJ, under EU law such online traffic data should only be retained when operations are carried out in a targeted manner, and in the course of fighting “serious crime”.

The UK government says it is assessing the potential impact of the ruling.

Encryption backdoors are against US national interest, say lawmakers – Any attempt to weaken encryption is against the national interest, a group of US lawmakers has warned.

The widespread use of strong encryption has lead to complaints from law enforcement agencies that they are unable to access to communications of criminals – the so-called ‘going dark’ issue. This has lead to calls for government to order tech companies to install backdoors into the encryption they use, in order to allow investigators access to data. Critics of this move argue backdoors would weaken security and privacy for everyone, with little benefit to law enforcement.

The congressional Encryption Working Group has held meetings with federal, state, and local government, legal experts, academics, and cryptographers since it was set up in March 2015 to consider the issue and has now published an end of year report highlighting four key points.

US government starts asking foreign travelers to disclose their social media accounts – The US Customs and Border Protection has started demanding that foreign travelers hand over Facebook, Twitter, and other social media account information upon entering the country, according to a report from Politico. The new policy follows a proposal laid out back in June and applies only to those travelers who enter the US temporarily without a visa through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, process. The goal, the government says, is to “identify potential threats,” a spokesperson tells Politico.

The new policy went into effect on Tuesday, and the request is currently “optional.” It asks foreign travelers to “enter information associated with your online presence,” and offers a drop-down menu allowing participants to enter in account names for most major social networks, including LinkedIn and even Google+.

It’s unclear if the information collected can be immediately used to deny travelers entry into the US. However, the express purpose of the collection is to identify individuals with ties to terrorist groups. As it stands today, Customs and Border Protection says it will not deny entry to those that refuse to submit any social media information.

Facebook already has a Muslim registry—and it should be deleted – Since Donald Trump’s election, many in the tech industry have been concerned about the way their skills—and the data collected by their employers—might be used. On a number of occasions, Trump has expressed the desire to perform mass deportations and end any and all Muslim immigration. He has also said that it would be “good management” to create a database of Muslims, and that there should be “a lot of systems” to track Muslims within the US.

In the final days of his presidency, Barack Obama has scrapped the George W. Bush-era regulations that created a registry of male Muslim foreigners entering the US—the registry itself was suspended in 2011—but given Trump’s views, demands to create a domestic registry are still a possibility.

As a result, some 2,600 tech workers (and counting) have pledged both not to participate in any such programs and to encourage their employers to minimize any sensitive data they collect. The goal is to reduce the chance that such data might be used in harmful ways.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 21, 2016

The cheapskate’s guide to buying a new PC or Mac;  How to securely erase hard drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs);  How to Set Up and Optimize Your Wireless Router;  How to Find the Best Android Calendar App;  10 mistakes to avoid when troubleshooting IT problems; The best Linux desktop just got even better; 7 ways to take screenshots in Windows 10;  How to Find the Best Android Calendar App;  Box won’t say if it’s giving your secrets to the government;  RansomFree is the free program that protects your PC against ransomware – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

RansomFree is the free program that protects your PC against ransomware – Security firm Cybereason recently announced a free anti-ransomware program for Windows 7 and up, RansomFree.

The cheapskate’s guide to buying a new PC or Mac – Only suckers pay sticker price for a new Windows PC or Mac. If you’re patient and willing to do some research, you can save hundreds of dollars and get a more powerful configuration than you ever dreamed possible. Here’s how.

How to Set Up and Optimize Your Wireless Router – Everyone who’s ever purchased a new PC knows that there’s more to setting it up than just taking it out of the box and turning it on. The same is true of your home router. Putting together a home network isn’t trivial, but it doesn’t have to be overly difficult, either. Just because you’ve plugged everything in and it seems to be working doesn’t mean your network’s performance and security are as good as they could be, however. Here are the basic steps you need to follow to properly configure your home router.

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

Why Windows 10 users have better anti-virus protection – The latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report shows an increase in the use of anti-virus software following the introduction of Windows Defender, and highlights the extra security improvements in Windows 10.

Windows 10: The 10 biggest controversies and surprises in 2016 – Windows 10 has been dogged by various controversies since soon after its release. Anger about Windows 10 rarely dies down for long, and this year Microsoft has faced backlashes about the OS’s approach to privacy, upgrades and user control. Here are the biggest storms that whipped up around the OS in 2016, and one example of how Microsoft sometimes does listen to its users.

7 ways to take screenshots in Windows 10 – There’s the Snipping Tool, various keyboard and physical button shortcuts, and tons of third-party tools. It’s just not as intuitive as I’d like (I’m a big fan of Apple’s screenshot process in OS X). But if you’re looking for screenshot info, look no further — here are seven different ways to take a screenshot on your Windows 10 device.

10 mistakes to avoid when troubleshooting IT problems – The pressure of troubleshooting technology can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially in emergency situations. Avoiding these 10 mistakes will improve your chances for success.

Linux Mint get a major upgrade: The best Linux desktop just got even better – Linux Mint 18.1 is the best desktop available today. Not best “Linux” desktop. Best desktop period. With this long-term support Linux desktop, which is based on Ubuntu 16.04, Linux Mint is better than ever. Since I’ve already found Linux Mint 18 to be the best desktop out there of any sort, that’s saying something.

How to securely erase hard drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) – Got a pile of old drives that you need to wipe before sending them to Silicon Heaven? Or do you want to wipe a drive in a computer that you are selling or giving away? Here are some tips and tricks to help you get the job done.

How to Find the Best Android Calendar App – Design, email integration, widgets, and task management: Here are our picks for the top Android Calendars in each of those categories.

Viber plays catch-up with GIFs and video messages – Just before the holidays get into full swing, Viber is rolling out an app update featuring improved emoticons, recorded video messages, and animated GIFs.

Security:

New report says Android phones by Lenovo and others may be running spyware apps – When security firm Kryptowire discovered last month that Chinese firmware company Adups was spying on text messages, call logs, contact lists, and location information sent by Blu R1 HD phones in the United States, Blu quickly acted to plug the security hole and assure customers that their personal data was safe. But now it appears that the issue might be more widespread. Security research outfit Trustlook has uncovered numerous other manufacturers that may have devices containing Adups apps. While many of them are smaller China-based manufacturers, a few notable brands made the list, including Archos, ZTE and Lenovo. Trustlook’s findings echo those of Kryptowire, in that the preinstalled apps are working behind the scenes to mine your data:

Police can force you to give up your iPhone password, Florida court rules – A Florida judge recently ruled that the Fifth Amendment did not protect an iPhone user from releasing his passcode to be used in a case. Here’s what it could mean for the future of digital privacy.

Mobile banking trojans adopt ransomware features – Cybercriminals are adding file-encrypting features to traditional mobile banking trojans, creating hybrid threats that can steal sensitive information and lock user files at the same time. One such trojan is called Faketoken and its primary functionality is to generate fake login screens for more than 2,000 financial applications in order to steal login credentials. The malicious app also displays phishing pages to steal credit card information, and it can read and send text messages.

Methbot: Russian botnet steals millions from US companies every day – Russian hackers are stealing between $3 million to $5 million per day from US brands and media companies in one of the most lucrative botnet operations ever discovered. On December 20, researchers from White Ops said the scheme, dubbed “Methbot,” is a Russian operation set up to watch up to 300 million video-based adverts automatically every day. These adverts, displayed on legitimate domains owned by companies including the Huffington Post, Economist, Fortune, ESPN, Vogue, CBS Sports, and Fox News, are used to generate additional revenue through advertising sponsors which help keep these businesses afloat.

Company News:

EU says Facebook misled it over its WhatsApp data-sharing policy – The European Commission has accused Facebook of providing “incorrect or misleading information” in the run-up to its $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014. Information requested by the Commission is used to vet large mergers and takeovers, aiming to find out if the resulting business would be anti-competitive. If Facebook cannot provide a decent excuse for misleading the Commission before January 31st it could be fined up to $179 million. The Commission’s complaint refers specifically to the nature of the data-sharing agreement between Facebook and WhatsApp.

Uber losses expected to hit $3 billion in 2016 despite revenue growth – Uber’s losses are growing from $2.2 billion last year to an expected $3 billion this year, according to multiple reports this week from The Information and others. The ride hailing pioneer is expected to surpass $5.5 billion in net revenue in 2016, according to a Bloomberg report, up from an estimated $2 billion in revenue last year. While that kind of sales growth is normally impressive, considering the $3 billion in anticipated losses, Uber is apparently spending $1.55 for every dollar it makes.

Revenues are down, but BlackBerry’s earnings still give investors hope as the company pivots – The company posted earnings this morning, featuring a large, if unexpected drop in handset revenue from $220 million for this quarter last year, down to $62 million – to be expected as the company moves from manufacturing its own hardware to third-party branding partnerships like the one it recently struck with Alcatel maker, TCL. On a more positive note, the company saw a raise in software and service revenue to $160 million, a recurring profit that points the way forward for a company undergoing a profound shift. Its adjusted earnings were at $0.01 a share, a marked upgrade from the $0.02 predicted per share loss.

Google sued for encouraging employees to spy on each other – “Don’t be evil.” That’s supposedly Google’s corporate motto but as many would attest, it might simply be Google poking fun at the very idea of doing nothing evil. Because that is precisely what Google is usually caught doing, depending on who you ask. If you ask a former Google product manager, that is definitely the case as far as California labor laws are concerned. Suing his former employer, this ex-Google drone claims Google implements shady confidentiality practices, including encouraging its minions to rat out each other.

Appeals against European Union’s €13 billion Apple tax ruling take shape – Apple will this week file its appeal of a European Commission decision that it owes Ireland billions in back taxes, while the country’s Department of Finance has revealed details of its own appeal.

Tim Cook promises “great desktops in our roadmap” after a desktop-free 2016 – Although Apple released new MacBooks and redesigned MacBook Pros this year, one area of the Mac lineup could still use some attention: the desktop. The iMac was last refreshed in October 2015, the Mac Mini was last refreshed in October 2013, and the Mac Pro dates back to December 2013. In an internal memo obtained by TechCrunch, Apple CEO Tim Cook briefly addressed the importance of Mac desktops in the lineup. He did so to quell skepticism in the media and possibly among Apple’s own staff. The full quote reads:

Games and Entertainment:

Facebook introduces live audio streams in partnership with the BBC – The company said today that the feature, which is first being made available to publishers, is designed to complement video streams with a lower-bandwidth option. Initial partners include Britain’s LBC radio, the BBC World Service, Harper Collins, and authors Adam Grant and Britt Bennett. It will be made available to everyone next year, Facebook said. Listening to live streams on iOS will require that you have Facebook open on your mobile device the entire time, Facebook said — a feature that seems likely to limit engagement among listeners. Android users can close the app and continue to listen.

Halo Wars is finally on PC—and hey, it ain’t so bad – To celebrate the series’ impending sequel, currently scheduled to launch in February, Microsoft has come up with an odd promotional move. Finally, you can play Halo’s console-minded RTS from 2009… with a mouse and keyboard. Halo Wars: Definitive Edition landed on Xbox One and Windows 10 on Tuesday, and I dove in to offer some quick impressions of what to expect from a PC-ized version of a console-ized version of a PC gaming genre.

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Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare ‘Sabotage’ DLC for PS4 arrives January 31 – The first DLC Map Pack for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will be released for the PlayStation 4 first, and it’ll be available starting January 31. The DLC is called “Sabotage,” and it’ll bring a few new multiplayer maps, as well as the fan-favorite co-op zombie experience, this one dubbed “Rave in the Redwoods.” Of course, other platforms will get access to the DLC some time later.

Simple guide to making (and sharing) a Plex streaming movie library – Plex enables anyone to create their own streaming movie (and TV show and music…) library, and even share that library with friends and relatives. Setting the entire thing up can be daunting at first glance, though, if you’re not familiar with the software and how it works. The benefits are worth the effort in the end, and so we’ve written up this simple, complete how-to guide taking you from start to finish.

Steam winter sale 2016 start date confirmed by PayPal – For gamers, no holiday season is complete without the Steam winter sale, and now we know when this year’s event is going to kick off. Steam’s holiday sale is usually its biggest of the year, typically offering two weeks of deep discounts on most of its game catalog. Thanks to PayPal’s UK arm, we know that the festivities begin later this week.

Off Topic (Sort of):

IBM employees launch petition protesting cooperation with Donald Trump – The IBMPetition.org effort has been spearheaded in part by IBM cybersecurity engineer Daniel Hanley, who told The Intercept he started organizing with his coworkers after reading Rometty’s letter. “I was shocked, of course,” Hanley said, “because IBM has purported to espouse diversity and inclusion, and yet here’s Ginni Rometty in an unqualified way reaching out to an admin whose electoral success was based on racist programs.” The petition now has 51 signees, which is a tiny fraction of the company’s enormous global staff, but to date has circulated only privately. The full IBMPetition.org letter can be read below:

Trump’s pick for interior secretary was caught in “pattern of fraud” At Seal Team 6 – A Montana lawmaker tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to be secretary of the interior committed travel fraud when he was a member of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6, according to three former unit leaders and a military consultant. In announcing the nomination of Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, a retired Navy SEAL commander, Trump praised his military background. “As a former Navy SEAL, he has incredible leadership skills and an attitude of doing whatever it takes to win,” Trump said last week. But when Zinke was a mid-career officer at SEAL Team 6, he was caught traveling multiple times to Montana in 1998 and 1999 to renovate his home. Zinke claimed that the travel was for official duties, according to the sources.

FCC Republicans vow to gut net neutrality rules “as soon as possible” – The US Federal Communications Commission’s two Republican members told ISPs yesterday that they will get to work on gutting net neutrality rules “as soon as possible.” FCC Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly sent a letter to five lobby groups representing wireless carriers and small ISPs; while the letter is mostly about plans to extend an exemption for small providers from certain disclosure requirements, the commissioners also said they will tackle the entire net neutrality order shortly after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20.

2016 tech that lived up to the hype (and tech that didn’t) – It’s been a year of big promises and quiet achievers in tech, but what blew us all away and what just blew it?

3 Things Mark Zuckerberg Has Learned About Artificial Intelligence – What if your security camera could not only see who’s at your door, but also identify whether it’s a guest you’re expecting, alert you when they arrive, and let them in? Or how about a speaker system that automatically plays music as your child wakes up? That’s the type of functionality Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is trying to build into his virtual butler, Jarvis, which he’s been developing throughout the year as part of his New Year’s resolution.

Something to think about:

“I can imagine no greater disservice to the county than to establish a system of censorship that would deny to the people of a free republic like our own their indisputable right to criticize their own public officials. While exercising the great powers of office I hold, I would regret in a crisis like the one through which we are now passing to lose the benefit of patriotic and intelligent criticism.”

–        Woodrow Wilson    (1856 – 1924), Letter to Arthur Brisbane, April 25, 1917

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

EFF urges companies to prepare for more surveillance and censorship – The Electronic Frontier Foundation – a group of tech pioneers trying to keep the Internet open and free – have published an open letter to tech companies pleading them to prepare for an era of increased Internet surveillance and censorship. The EFF is citing statements by Trump and his advisors regarding Internet control, net neutrality, and freedom of speech and the press.

They write:

Incoming President Donald Trump and many of his advisors have promised to ratchet up surveillance and censorship, while threatening the future of net neutrality, privacy, and encryption. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is calling on technology companies to unite with us in defending Internet users. By working together, we can ensure that technology created to connect and uplift people worldwide is not conscripted into a tool of oppression.

The EFF ran a full-page ad in Wired asking tech companies to delete unnecessary logs and user data and offering up their 2017 wishlist which includes a request that “Facebook should stop making itself an arbiter of ‘authentic names’ and allow people to use whatever name they want on their account” and that “Twitter should enable end-to-end encrypted direct messages.”

The EFF is also offering detailed talking points for leaders in government.

Signal Claims Egypt Is Blocking Access to Encrypted Messaging App – Egypt has been censoring access to encrypted messaging app Signal, according to Open Whisper Systems, the company behind the app. The move highlights that as privacy-focused users move to technologies such as Signal, governments may still try to limit their use.

“We’ve been investigating over the weekend, and have confirmed that Egypt is censoring access to Signal,” a tweet from Open Whisper Systems on Monday reads.

Signal is a free app available on Android and iOS, and also has an accompanying desktop client. Users can send text messages, photos, and videos using end-to-end encryption; meaning that those who intercept the communication, such as a government or internet service provider cannot read its contents.

Signal’s protocol has also been adopted by other end-to-end encrypted messaging systems, such as WhatsApp and Facebook’s Secret Conversations feature.

Strong non-backdoored encryption is vital – but the Feds should totally be able to crack it, say House committees – A bipartisan House working group on encryption has today come to the conclusion that encryption is vital to US national interests, even as it seeks to mitigate the problem the technology can pose for law enforcement.

Citing the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s effort earlier this year to force Apple to help the agency decrypt an iPhone used by one of the shooters in a 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino, California, the House Judiciary Committee & House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Encryption Working Group (EWG) report explores the tension between authorities’ desire for access to digital data and the increasingly necessary use of encryption to keep data secure.

Box won’t say if it’s giving your secrets to the government – Cloud storage giant Box won’t say how many times it has turned over customer data to the government.

The company’s policy stands out from the cloud storage crowd, including Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Dropbox, which along with other every internet and phone company in the Fortune 500, provide a biannual transparency report detailing the number of government requests and secret orders they receive.

A spokesperson for Box confirmed that the company doesn’t issue a transparency report, adding that government requests for customer data is “strictly limited to the extent mandated and required by applicable law.”

“Our priority is always to preserve the privacy of our users to the fullest extent possible,” the spokesperson said.

But confidence in the notion of “applicable law” quickly waned after the government was shown to have pushed the limits of its legal powers in the wake of the NSA disclosures.

Privacy groups complain to FTC over Google’s ‘deceptive’ policy change – Privacy groups have complained to the Federal Trade Commission that Google is encroaching on user privacy through a policy change in June that allows it to combine personally-identifiable information with browsing data collected by its DoubleClick digital advertising service.

The complaint by Consumer Watchdog and Privacy Rights Clearing House alleged that Google has created “super-profiles” as it can track user activity on Android mobile phones, with an 88 percent market share of smartphones worldwide, “and from any website that uses Google Analytics, hosts YouTube videos, or displays ads served by DoubleClick or AdSense.”

The combination of data is in contrast to Google’s pledges not to combine users’ personally-identifiable information with DoubleClick’s browsing data when acquiring the ad serving service in 2008, according to the complaint filed Thursday but made public on Monday. In October this year, ProPublica reported that Google “quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand” by its policy change in June that allowed the DoubleClick database of web browsing records to be combined with personal user data.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 19, 2016

Take control of your privacy in Windows 10;  The Best PC Games of 2017;  The Twelve Scams of Christmas;  PowerShell: The smart person’s guide;  Untangling the mesh: Everything you need to know about Wi-Fi systems;  The best OneNote 2016 tips: 10 ways anyone can get organized;  Jim Hillier: Best of Freeware 2016;  Gadgets and apps for emergencies;  How to Charge Your iPhone Faster;  Google Maps now shows wheelchair accessibility info for locations – and much more news you need to know.

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The Twelve Scams of Christmas – The holiday season offers many ways to package classic scam techniques with pretty bows so appealing that we can’t help but open that email, click that deal or purchase discounted vouchers for the relatives who seem to already have everything. Here are the 12 scams to look out for this Christmas:

Take control of your privacy in Windows 10 – Where do you draw the line on personal privacy? The right options are different for everyone. In this guide, I show you which privacy settings help you create the right balance of privacy and convenience in Windows 10.

How to Use Sticky Notes as Reminders in Windows 10 – In Windows 10, you can create and edit onscreen sticky notes that act as reminders. Here’s how.

The best OneNote 2016 tips: 10 ways anyone can get organized – Microsoft’s OneNote is a surprisingly versatile tool for jotting down and organizing notes, random facts and more. These tips will help you make the most of its features.

Untangling the mesh: Everything you need to know about Wi-Fi systems – CNET editor Dong Ngo explains the good and the bad of Wi-Fi systems (aka mesh networks) and their alternatives that will make your home Wi-Fi great.

How to move your photos from Flickr to Google Photos – Save your Flickr photos and move them to another cloud photo service before you delete your Yahoo account.

PowerShell: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers essential PowerShell information, including features, usage requirements, and how Microsoft’s framework extends to task automation and management.

Gboard is Google Keyboard with built-in search, better predictions and more – Android’s Google Keyboard has been renamed ‘Gboard,’ and it is considerably more convenient with Google Search built in. Gboard still brings the features you’re used to accessing on Google Keyboard — this includes things like gliding to type and voice typing. However, there’s also a new “G” icon that, when tapped, pulls up Google Search directly from the keyboard regardless of what app you’re using.

Jim Hillier: Best of Freeware 2016 – It’s a been a while since we last posted our best of freeware selections. That’s largely down to the fact that freeware offerings haven’t changed that much and new/innovative freeware has become somewhat of a rarity. So, there’s not much point in re-iterating categories which haven’t really changed (such as ‘image viewers’, for example, where FastStone, IrfanView, and XnView still pretty much rule the roost). The criteria for selections includes ease of use, feature set, plus overall efficacy. You will also notice that I have a particular leaning toward portable freeware. The availability of a portable version, where viable, is always a big plus in my book:

How to Charge Your iPhone Faster – The iPhone doesn’t have quick charging technology built-in like some Androids do, but there are a few things you can do to make your iPhone charge slightly faster. The less your iPhone is doing, the faster it’s battery will recharge. This is why many believe switching your phone into Airplane Mode helps it charge more quickly, since this cuts off the phone’s ability to connect to the Internet and fetch information. If you still want to receive texts and calls while charging, there are some other settings you can change to make your iPhone charge faster.

Vine won’t be removed from the app stores, will instead relaunch as “Vine Camera” – Vine Camera will launch in January, replacing the Vine app that’s live today. The videos recorded using the new app can be saved to your camera roll or posted directly to Twitter, the company says. That’s a similar strategy that Facebook-owned Instagram uses among its ecosystem of apps, too. Instead of trying to build them into their own social media brands, Instagram’s Hyperlapse, Boomerang, and Layout just feed content back to the main Instagram application. Vine Camera will do the same. In addition, Twitter will attempt to move the Vine user base to Twitter.

Google Maps now shows wheelchair accessibility info for locations – Google Maps is already a lifesaver for many of us, with the app spitting out locations with just a few taps and keeping us from getting lost with detailed directions. But now it can be even more vital for the millions of people in wheelchairs in the US. Now Google Maps will display wheelchair accessibility information for locations, right alongside details like store hours or dining options, under the “amenities” section.

Facebook Messenger strikes at Skype with desktop group voice calling – We might finally get to stop asking, “Wait, what’s your Skype name?” thanks to a test of new Facebook group audio calling on desktop. Facebook launched group voice calls on its mobile Messenger app in April, and now it’s working out the kinks to bring the feature to your home and office. It could become a useful alternative to traditional conference calls by piggy-backing on Facebook’s ubiquitous identity platform.

Gadgets and apps for emergencies – From an iPhone case that generates power to a flashlight that doubles as a USB charger, these devices and apps will help you stay safe in the event of an emergency.

You can find out how your CPU compares to AMD’s Ryzen for free – AMD’s Ryzen-based chips should be its best in decades, and now you can run the same test AMD used to compare Summit Ridge to your own CPU. Have at it.

Security:

Home routers under attack in ongoing malvertisement blitz – As you read these words, malicious ads on legitimate websites are targeting visitors with malware. But that malware doesn’t infect their computers, researchers said. Instead, it causes unsecured routers to connect to fraudulent domains. Using a technique known as steganography, the ads hide malicious code in image data. The hidden code then redirects targets to webpages hosting DNSChanger, an exploit kit that infects routers running unpatched firmware or are secured with weak administrative passwords. Once a router is compromised, DNSChanger configures it to use an attacker-controlled domain name system server. This causes most computers on the network to visit fraudulent servers, rather than the servers corresponding to their official domain.

Updates and more on the Netgear router vulnerability – On December 9, 2016 we first learned of a command injection vulnerability in some Netgear routers. In the worst case, simply viewing a malicious web page could result in your router being hacked. What follows is a recap and expansion of the issue, along with the latest developments. Then, some Defensive Computing suggestions for protecting a router.

“Find my Phone” is an amazing short film about a stolen cell – Our phones are wildly personal parts of us and a movie like this one shows just how private – and dangerous – they can be. By following one cellphone thief for a few months we come to realize that with a little software and some bad intentions our cellphones can go from private property to electronic spy in a matter of seconds.

Ameriprise leak exposes millions of dollars worth of accounts – An internet-connected backup drive exposed social security, bank account, and financial planning data.

Germany to Yahoo users: switch to a different email provider – Many people have a Yahoo email account from years ago, but no longer use it. Those who do still use their Yahoo email account, though, are being encouraged to switch to a different provider in light of Yahoo’s second massive data breach disclosure. Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security, more commonly called BSI, has advised existing Yahoo email users to switch to a different provider. The agency heavily criticized Yahoo, accusing it of failing to protect its users.

LinkedIn’s Lynda.com suffers database breach – Online learning platform Lynda.com has begun notifying its 9.5 million users that it recently experienced unauthorised third party access to a database that contains contact information of account holders, their learning data, and courses viewed. The LinkedIn subsidiary — and now Microsoft subsidiary — said there was no evidence the breach included the leak of passwords in the compromised data, but a spokesperson for LinkedIn told ZDNet it has reset the passwords for approximately 55,000 Lynda.com users as a precautionary measure.

Stolen Yahoo User Data Sold for $300K – The treasure trove of data stolen from Yahoo, a breach made public this week, has actually been for sale on the dark Web for several months, according to Bloomberg. Andrew Komarov, chief intelligence officer at cybersecurity firm InfoArmor, tells Bloomberg that a copy of the data was available for $300,000 in August, and three buyers emerged. Since Yahoo changed people’s passwords after this week’s disclosure, however, the data became less valuable and bids have dropped to $20,000 to $50,000, according to The New York Times.

Company News:

Uber, defiant, says it won’t apply for an autonomous car permit in California  – On Friday afternoon, Uber held a press conference to say that it would not be applying for a permit with the California DMV to test its so-called self-driving cars, despite an order from the DMV to apply for a permit or halt its operations. Uber added that it will still pick up riders with self-driving Uber cars, despite the DMV’s demands.

Amazon bets big on Las Vegas, rolling out nearly 5,000 Echo units to hotel rooms – Wynn Las Vegas is deploying Amazon Echo in its guest rooms. Initial features will include lighting and temperature control and eventually personal concierge functions will be added.

IBM launches Watson Discovery Service for big data analytics at scale – IBM’s Watson Discovery Service is a suite of APIs that aims to make it easier for companies to ingest and analyze their data, even if they don’t have an advanced degree in data science.

Airbnb authorizes $153 million more funding – A new Delaware filing for Airbnb, identified by CB Insights, suggests that the travel service has authorized another $153 million in Series F shares. This implies that they might be raising an extension to their financing $555 million round from a few months back. The filing prices the shares at $105, consistent with the latest round, which was said to be about a $30 billion valuation. Uber is the only U.S. startup with a greater valuation that Airbnb. It is not clear yet which investors might be getting these shares or if the round is even confirmed. Previous Airbnb investors include Google Capital, Technology Crossover Ventures, GGV Capital and Sequoia Capital.

Despite Super Mario Run’s Successful Launch, Nintendo’s Stocks Plunge – Despite making App store history with record-breaking download numbers, Super Mario Run‘s success hasn’t made Nintendo’s shareholders happy as the company’s shares have plummeted by $2 billion. There are several reasons why Nintendo’s investors are wary about the future success of Super Mario Run. One of the main reasons is the game’s price. The most expensive mobile games on the market usually top out at $5 but Super Mario Run costs double that at $10. The game is free to download, but it can only make a substantial profit if folks buy the full $10 version. There is also the fact that the game cannot be played without being connected to the internet via WiFi.

Games and Entertainment:

Super Mario Run was downloaded 2.85 million times in its first day – According to analytics firm Apptopia, the game was downloaded 2.85 million times in its first day of availability. Those numbers handily beat out Pokémon Go, which was downloaded 900,000 times in its first day, according to Apptopia’s data (that number jumped to 5.6 million by day three). Of course, the comparison isn’t entirely fair: Super Mario Run was available in 150 countries at launch, while Pokémon Go debuted in just three before a staggered rollout brought it out to the rest of the world (it was only recently made available in India and South Asia, for instance).

Super Mario Run players are slamming it with one-star reviews – Apple has been hyping Nintendo’s first mobile game for iPhone, Super Mario Run, for months now, but that hasn’t stopped frustrated players leaving a rash of 1-star reviews in the App Store. The hotly-anticipated title, which brings gaming icon Mario to iOS in a simple 2D, coin collecting side-scroller, is designed for one-handed play, with straightforward tap-to-jump control. That’s gone down well among many players – ourselves included – but not everyone is convinced.

The Best PC Games of 2017 – The holiday shopping season is upon us, so you’ve got to get games either for yourself or a loved one. We’ve reviewed more than 100 titles that make the perfect stocking stuffers for the PC gaming crowd.

‘Odyssey’ Is Edutainment Done Right With Inspiration From ‘Myst’ – Odyssey’s most obvious inspiration is the brain-straining Myst games, which are enjoying a revival of sorts in new titles like Obduction and The Witness. Much as in the original Myst, players explore an island, opening new walkways and zones by solving a wide variety of puzzles. The big difference is Odyssey features none of the Magritte-styled magical realism that defines those games. Much as Odyssey champions real-world science, its setting is a small set of imagined Caribbean islands, altered over the years by the historical forces of environmental protections, military encampments, pirates, and natives long vanished. Although there’s a pleasing amount of backtracking, it’s also more linear than the games that inspired it, but with good reason for its educational aims.

Dragon Quest XI revealed, coming to PS4 & 3DS in 2017 – When it comes to RPG series from Japan, there are two top franchises: Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Oddly enough, they both come from Square Enix, and since we just saw the long-awaited release of FF15, the developer is turning its focus towards the upcoming Dragon Quest XI. At the Jump Festa 2017 event in Japan this weekend, the first details of DQ11: In Search of Departed Time were revealed live on stage, along with a debut trailer.

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15 of the best traditional holiday movies now streaming – From the Muppet Christmas Carol, to the one-and-only Christmas episode of the Twilight Zone, to some top-notch feature-length Christmas-season classics, this list of traditional holiday movies will give you and yours plenty to do between presents and feasting.

Off Topic (Sort of):

See 4,000 Santas and 11,000 penguins fight to the death – Ho ho, oh no! Who will win in the epic battle between thousands of jolly Saint Nicks and adorable penguins? Find out in this festive Epic Battle Simulator video.

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After a year of setbacks, can smartwatches still succeed? – After the iPad was a thing, analysts started talking about the iWatch being the next big thing. Google was heavily rumored to be working on wearables too. Then, Pebble beat them all to the market with a record-setting Kickstarter campaign. A year or two ago it seemed like all the predictions of the importance of smart wearable technology were coming true. Now, a series of public setbacks have called into question the idea of a mainstream smartwatch. Regular people wanted (and still want) smartphones, but what if they don’t (and never will) want a smartwatch?

The United States of Climate Change Denial – Donald Trump has promised to unleash an energy revolution by extracting billions of dollars in untapped fossil fuels and gutting incentives to invest in renewable energy. With the nominations of Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, and Rick Perry to his Cabinet, the President-elect is poised to do more damage to America’s environmental legacy—and future—than any other leader in recent memory. Despite Trump’s untraditional approach to choosing Cabinet officials, nothing about their nomination is accidental. Each of them offers a range of qualifications and connections that, together, form a unified front against climate progress, human health, and energy security.

‘SNL’ ruthlessly mocks Trump’s spelling, calls him Putin’s gift – Commentary: If you thought ‘Saturday Night Live’ would go easy on the president-elect and his Twitter account, think again.

Rogue lawyers made $6 million shaking down porn pirates, Feds say – The indictment alleges that two lawyers — Paul R. Hansmeier and John L. Steele — used the copyright system to extort roughly $6 million out of porn pirates over the course of three years. Prosecutors say the lawyers uploaded their own pornographic videos to torrent services — including the embattled Pirate Bay — then aggressively targeted users who downloaded the content, discovering names through the standard copyright violation process and then threatening pirates with damages up to $150,000 unless they agreed to a settlement. The typical cost of a settlement was $4,000, far less than the cost of challenging the order in open court.

Inside Amazon’s clickworker platform: How half a million people are being paid pennies to train AI – Internet platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk let companies break jobs into smaller tasks and offer them to people across the globe. But, do they democratize work or exploit the disempowered?

Something to think about:

“My Father taught me how to be a man – and not by instilling in me a sense of machismo or an agenda of dominance. He taught me that a real man doesn’t take, he gives; he doesn’t use force, he uses logic; doesn’t play the role of trouble-maker, but rather, trouble-shooter; and most importantly, a real man is defined by what’s in his heart, not his pants.”

–       Kevin Smith  – My Boring Ass Life

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Washington Post automatically inserts Trump fact-checks into Twitter – In an apparent first for any American news outlet, the Washington Post released a Chrome plug-in on Friday designed to fact-check posts from a single Twitter account. Can you guess which one?

The new “RealDonaldContext” plug-in for the Google Chrome browser, released by WaPo reporter Philip Bump, adds fact-check summaries to selected posts by President-elect Donald Trump. Users will need to click a post in The Donald’s Twitter feed to see any fact-check information from the Washington Post, which appears as a gray text box beneath the tweet.

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Apple, Google, Uber join tech giants in refusing to create Muslim registry for Trump – Apple, Google, and Uber went on record on Friday stating that they would have no part in building or contributing to a “Muslim registry” that was proposed by President-elect Donald Trump during his election campaign. Buzzfeed received statements from spokespeople for all three tech giants, each iterating that they were against the idea of, and would in no way participate in creating such a registry for the Trump Administration.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 16, 2016

Windows 10 tip: Create a full image backup using this hidden tool;  Windows recovery disk tip: When and if it needs updating;  14 eyebrow-raising things Google knows about you;  How to master Super Mario Run;  7 Android apps that track your expenses;  Ed Bott’s 10 most popular Windows 10 tips;  16 Android tips and tricks you shouldn’t miss;  5 things you should do following the Yahoo breach;  Evernote backtracks on controversial privacy policy;  Microsoft Offers Xbox One Owners Lost Odyssey for Free;  4 Gmail Labs features you should be using;  How to add your Gmail account to Windows 10’s Mail app – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Windows 10 tip: Create a full image backup using this hidden tool – Do you miss the old Windows 7 backup tool? It’s still there, well hidden in Windows 10, and its most impressive trick is the option to create a complete image-based backup.

Windows recovery disk tip: When and if it needs updating – Once you make your Windows recovery disk, do you ever need to update it? We asked Microsoft, and this is what we learned.

14 eyebrow-raising things Google knows about you – Some are fascinating, others are frightening — but here’s how to find out what Google has on you.

4 Gmail Labs features you should be using – As powerful as Gmail is, you make it even more productive with add-ons from Gmail Labs. If you’re new to Labs, it’s the testing ground for Gmail’s more experimental features. The successful ones go on to become standard Gmail capabilities—the much-loved Send & Archive button was once a Gmail Lab experiment—but while they’re in the Labs, there’s always the outside chance they could break, change, or disappear.

5 things you should do following the Yahoo breach – If you’re a Yahoo user you should consider your password compromised and should take all the necessary steps to secure your account. You should follow all of Yahoo’s recommendations, but here are a few more that you should have in mind:

How to replace 5 major Yahoo services and delete your Yahoo account – Yahoo users have 1 billion more reasons to switch another major hack. Here’s how to replace major Yahoo services with rivals and delete your Yahoo account.

Ed Bott’s 10 most popular Windows 10 tips – How well do you know the ins and outs of Microsoft’s flagship operating system? Every week, Windows expert Ed Bott delivers a new trick or shortcut. We’ve collected his most popular tips.

Evernote backtracks on controversial privacy policy – Evernote has performed an abrupt about-face on a controversial new privacy policy. The policy, released earlier this week, caused some upset, with users objecting to a clause that stated: “you cannot opt out of employees looking at your content.” Evernote tried to clarify that this employee snooping was only done to improve machine learning analysis, and that personal details were censored, but the damage has been done. Now, the company says it’s making this part of the privacy policy opt-in instead.

Don’t like Evernote’s new privacy policy? Here are five free alternatives – Note-taking app Evernote has quietly changed its privacy policy to allow some of its employees access to user-stored content, as part of the company’s effort to improve the service. Users are, as you might expect, not happy about their data being open to snooping, and they are planning to vote with their feet (and data). But what services can take over from Evernote? Let’s look:

16 Android tips and tricks you shouldn’t miss from 2016 – In case you missed any of ’em the first go-round or maybe just didn’t have the time to try everything out, here are some of my favorite Android tips and tricks from 2016. So pour yourself some cocoa, kick back by the fire, and give yourself the gift of finely tuned technology. Best of all? This is one gift that’s affordable as can be.

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

How to add your Gmail account to Windows 10’s Mail app – The Windows 10 Mail app can do more than just send and receive email from your Microsoft account–it can handle your Gmail as well.

Facebook partners with fact-checking organizations to begin flagging fake news – Facebook today began rolling out new tools designed to prevent the spread of misinformation, weeks after the US presidential election results raised new questions about how viral hoaxes may have contributed to Donald Trump’s victory. Facebook is introducing tools designed to make it easier to report links shared in the News Feed as fake news, and it’s working with four independent fact-checking organizations to assess the accuracy of viral stories. Facebook users who try to share a story that has been marked as false will be warned that “independent fact-checkers have disputed its accuracy.”

How to See Your Hidden Facebook Messages – Facebook actually keeps two inboxes for messages that come from people you’re not friends with. One contains contact attempts coming from people Facebook thinks you might know or want to get in touch with, while the other includes messages from accounts it thinks are strangers or spam. The former is referred to as a new message request, while the latter is called a filtered request. Unlike regular messages between friends, people who send you requests won’t know if you’ve read their message until you accept their invitation. Check out the steps outlined in the video above to see how to access both inboxes.

Skype begins testing an all-in-one app on Android offering native phone calls, SMS support & more – A new Skype application dubbed “Skype Mingo” has been spotted in the wild, offering Android users the ability to use Skype as the native calling app and contacts manager for their smartphone, while still being able to take advantage of Skype features like chat, file and photo sharing, video calls, and its new bots. The app, still in alpha testing according to Google Play, was first spotted by the blog, MSPoweruser, which also noted that Skype has been planning to bring SMS relay to Android users. That could indicate that Skype Mingo is meant to serve as the testing grounds for that feature set, before it rolls out to all of Skype’s Android user base.

Google’s Motion Stills app now can make cinemagraphs and add motion text – Google Motion Stills took the untapped potential of Apple’s Live Photos and made them a killer feature by instantly turning them into GIFs. Now, Google is adding even more features to Motion Stills that further enhance its toolset. The app now offers the ability to add “motion text” to an image, that can track and move along with motion in the photo. Google’s example shows a caption following a bird in flight, and the execution looks pretty slick. Additionally, Motion Stills can now create cinemagraphs. By using machine learning to analyze the imported Live Photo, Google’s app can freeze the background and create an endlessly looping transition of motion.

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Android everywhere: If it has a screen, it will probably run Android soon – As the most popular OS on Earth, Android finds itself on a lot of different form factors. Sure, there are smartphones in countless different flavors, and Google has expanded the OS to cover tablets, watches, and TVs. But there’s way more to the Android world than that. Remember, the core Android platform is open source, which means all sorts of companies want it for things other than the typical Google-suggested use cases. Android is becoming the OS of choice for everything with a screen. So that’s what we’re diving into—the weird world of Android devices.

FreedomPop Expands to AT&T’s Network – FreedomPop, the Los Angeles-based startup whose mobile phone plans offer free texts, calls, and data, will give its subscribers access to the AT&T network starting today. Previously only available available on the Sprint network, FreedomPop’s expansion to AT&T will offer its customers more choices for how to use their free data, including a new mobile hotspot offering or the option to buy a SIM card for use in an existing device. The AT&T hotspot costs $29.99, and comes with 2GB of free data. The SIM card, meanwhile, is $10, and can be used with any GSM-compatible phone.

Windows 10: Microsoft’s Edge browser the latest to disable Flash by default – Next year will see Microsoft reduce Flash to being click-to-play in Edge, as part of a bid to improve the browser’s security, stability and battery drain.

Security:

Hit by ransomware? No More Ransom portal adds 32 more free decryption tools to help you – Bitdefender, Check Point, Emsisoft and Trend Micro have joined the No More Ransom scheme – allowing more victims of ransomware to get their files back without paying criminals.

For privacy and security, change these iOS 10 settings right now – Before you do anything on your new iPhone or iPad, you should lock it down. This is how you do it.

0-days hitting Fedora and Ubuntu open desktops to a world of hurt – If you run a mainstream distribution of Linux on a desktop computer, there’s a good chance security researcher Chris Evans can hijack it when you do nothing more than open or even browse a specially crafted music file. And in the event you’re running Chrome on the just-released Fedora 25, his code-execution attack works as a classic drive-by. The zero-day exploits, which Evans published on Tuesday, are the latest to challenge the popular conceit that Linux, at least in its desktop form, is more immune to the types of attacks that have felled Windows computers for more than a decade and have increasingly snared Macs in recent years.

The government body that oversees the security of voting systems was itself hacked – The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is responsible for testing and certifying voting systems, among other things, was hacked around the time of the election, security outfit Recorded Future reports. The EAC confirmed a “potential intrusion” in a statement issued to TechCrunch. This isn’t a smoking gun for a stolen election or anything like that; the EAC doesn’t actually run the elections, nor does it handle voter information. But it is a shameful display all the same, especially considering how loudly and frequently the hacking threat has been bruited by officials this year.

Company News:

Adobe delivers record revenue on Q4 earnings beat – Adobe delivered strong fourth quarter financial results Thursday as the company continues to push an aggressive cloud strategy toward record-setting revenue growth. The creative software giant reported Q4 net income of $399.6 million, or 80 cents a share. Non-GAAP earnings in the quarter were 90 cents a share on revenue of $1.61 billion, up 23 percent year over year. Wall Street was looking for earnings of 86 cents a share on revenue of $1.59 billion. For the year, Adobe’s revenue came in at $5.85 billion on earnings of $3.01 per share. Analysts were looking for revenue of $5.83 billion earnings of $2.98 per share.

Oracle’s quarterly cloud revenue surpasses $1B – Oracle reported earnings for the second quarter of 2017 on Thursday. Earnings slightly beat estimates, though revenue fell short of expectations. The software giant touted its growing cloud revenues. Oracle’s non-GAAP earnings came to 61 cents a share on non-GAAP revenue of $9.1 billion. A year earlier, the company reported 63 cents a share on revenue of $9 billion. Wall Street was looking for 60 cents a share on revenue of $9.11 billion. Total cloud revenue hit $1.1 billion, up 64 percent in constant currency. Non-GAAP Software-as-a-service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) business came to $912 million, up 89 percent in constant currency.

Instagram has doubled its monthly active user base in two years – It appears that the rise of Snapchat and all its Spectacles fun have yet to slow Instagram’s growth: the Facebook-owned company today announced that it has reached 600 million monthly active users, doubling its figure from 2014. Of that statistic, 100 million monthly active users were added in the past six months — Instagram’s last milestone announcement was back in June of this year. Since then, Instagram introduced one of its biggest feature to date: Instagram Stories, a near-carbon copy of Snapchat. It also added the ability to delete followers from your private account and filter out abusive words this month, alongside an ephemeral live video function to users in the US.

TCL signs an exclusive deal to build BlackBerry-branded phones – BlackBerry announced the major global partner in its shift toward a solely software and service company today, and no surprise, it’s TCL. The Chinese hardware maker behind the Alcatel brand has already done a lot of heavy lifting for BlackBerry, as the designer and manufacturer behind the DTEK50 and DTEK60 handsets. Under this deal, TCL will build and distribute BlackBerry-branded devices globally, while BlackBerry provides the security, apps and customer support. The deal is the first of its kind for the BlackBerry, though the language surround the announcement implies that it won’t be the last – though other manufacturers likely won’t have access to the same sort of direct branding as TCL in most of the world, likely limiting the name to software suites and security.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft Offers Xbox One Owners Lost Odyssey for Free – The last round of games console releases from Sony and Microsoft did not come with backwards compatibility as standard. This was mainly due to both platforms moving to an x86 architecture and not wanting to spend any more cash than was necessary to ship new machines. However, Microsoft is steadily unlocking Xbox 360 games for play on the Xbox One, and the company is celebrating a milestone by offering a game for free.

Xbox One update turbocharges downloads for virtually all users – A new system update can speed up your Xbox One downloads by up to 80 percent.

How to master Super Mario Run: 13 quick and easy tips – Super Mario Run, Nintendo’s first true smartphone game, arrives today on iOS. It’s a little different than your typical Mario fanfare, which typically send the mustachioed plumber out on a grand adventure. Instead, the game has three modes — which you can test out for free — for players to sink their time into. The game does include in-game purchases with coin currency and a one-time fee of $9.99 to unlock its full features, and it will require an active internet connection to play. To help you make the most of your mobile Mario time, we’ve compiled our best tips and tricks.

DOOM Bloodfall DLC arrives alongside double points weekend – Bethesda has announced the release of the third and final DLC for DOOM (2016). The latest DLC is called Bloodfall, and it is of the multiplayer variety. As has become popular with special expansions, Bethesda has also announced a double points weekend that’ll run until next Monday (December 19). Those without a DOOM season pass can buy the DLC individually for $14.99 USD.

BBC and ITV’s BritBox streaming service brings UK shows to a US audience – The commercial arm of the BBC is teaming up with rival UK broadcaster ITV to launch BritBox, a subscription streaming service that will give US anglophiles access to hundreds of British TV shows. Pricing for BritBox is yet to be announced but, we’re told, it will launch in the first quarter of 2017 on iOS, Android, Roku, AppleTV, and Chromecast, as well as via Web browsers. Other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu typically cost around the $10 mark. BBC Worldwide added that while the service will be US-only initially, it has an “ambition” to roll it out to other international markets in the future.

Dolby’s luscious Atmos surround sound is coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One – During the introduction of the Windows 10 Creators Update in October, Microsoft announced that Dolby Atmos sound would be coming to the Xbox One S. Turns out that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft recently revealed that Dolby Atmos support is also coming to the original Xbox One and Windows 10 for PCs and tablets. There’s no specific release date yet, but it’s a good bet the feature will arrive with the Creators Update next spring.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Privacy should never be sacrificed for the sake of free – Yesterday was not a very good day for privacy. First was the revelation that Evernote’s new privacy policy will basically allow its engineers to take a peek at any of your notes. Then there’s Google’s lawsuit settlement, which involves still scanning your (and non-Gmail users’) e-mails. And to top it all off, Yahoo has admitted that an even more massive breach happened in 2013, affecting no less than 1 billion accounts. All this should send chills down your spine, and yet most people will probably react to the news with a shrug. Have we become accustomed, even numb, to intrusions of privacy in exchange for service? Common sense tells us we shouldn’t, and yet that might not be the case.

Australia: Site blocking efforts could prove more ‘symbolic’ than prohibitive for keen internet users – YESTERDAY a federal judge handed down a ruling that will usher in an unprecedented site blocking regimen in Australia — but plenty of uncertainties still remain. (recommended by Mal C.)

Why your tech is a pain in your neck. And back. And eyes – All those blinky, flashy, beepy screens keep you connected at your body’s expense. Here’s why it’s time to cut back.

100s of tech professionals take stand against Trump’s Muslim database – Hundreds of employees from top tech firms have formally pledged to not assist in building a database to track US citizens “based on race, religion, or national origin.” The pledge itself is hosted at neveragain.tech, and contains signatures from employees of IBM, Google, Slack, Microsoft, and more. The open letter commitment is targeted at US President-elect Donald Trump who proposed a database system for tracking Muslims in the US while he was campaigning for president.

An Explainer on the Polar Vortex You’re About to Experience – A polar vortex is on the way, so if you live in the colder regions of North America, you may want to stock up on hot cocoa and frozen food, because you’re in for a weekend of Netflix and chill. But despite its ominous name, how many of us actually understand what a polar vortex even is?

Google Home is going to help you misdiagnose yourself – Google announced its conversation actions for the Google Home this past week, which are similar to the Amazon Echo’s skills but instead prompt users to converse with Home to get something done. Today we got a better idea of Google’s partners. Domino’s Pizza, Genius, and WebMD will all be supported, according to VentureBeat. Publications, like BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN will also have actions. The new actions are available starting today, bringing the total number of conversation actions up to 35. Clearly the only skill we care about is WebMD because what could go wrong? Anyone who has fallen down a rabbit hole of symptoms, diagnoses, and statistics on WebMD knows one search can take an unexpected turn. Please go see a doctor because I promise it’s usually not as bad you think. Doctors are good. WebMD is fine.

The First-Ever Amazon Drone Deliveries Have Begun – Today, Jeff Bezos announced that an Amazon drone has completed its first ever package delivery to a customer. The delivery, which took place on December 7, is part of a continuing private customer trial the company is running in the Cambridge region of England. The whole delivery took about 13 minutes—from the moment the customer made the purchase to the time the drone came hovering down in their front lawn with the package. Amazon released a video of the delivery today, and Jeff Bezos proudly tweeted about it as well.

White House suggests Putin authorized DNC hack and helped to elect Trump – The Obama administration today joined the throngs of anonymous intelligence officials in saying Russian President Vladimir Putin had to have been involved in the cyberespionage operation to undermine the US election, the Associated Press reports. Not only does the White House say Putin was likely involved, but it also asserts that the Russian leader probably directly authorized the hack of the Democratic National Committee. The statements, from White House press secretary Josh Earnest, also suggest the goal was to help elect Donald Trump, who Earnest added must have known about Russia’s involvement. This follows yesterday’s report from NBC News that first surfaced the intelligence community’s claim of Putin’s involvement.

Something to think about:

“Almost everything: all external expectations, all pride all fear of embarrassment or failure. These things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

–        Steve Jobs   (1955 – 2011), Stanford Commencement Adress, 2005

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Twitter cuts off geospatial data access for police intelligence centers – Police across the country will now have a harder time singling out individual Twitter users. Twitter announced today that it has cut off all geospatial intelligence data being sold to police intelligence centers, also known as fusion centers.

The geospatial intelligence tool was being provided by Dataminr, an analytics firm partially owned by Twitter, which has exclusive access to the company’s live data feed or “firehose.” Dataminr introduced the system in March, and the ACLU of Northern California found evidence that at least one center had access to it for months afterwards. After a review, Twitter confirmed today that the tool is no longer in use by any such agencies.

“Our long-standing position has been that the use of Twitter data for surveillance is strictly prohibited,” the company said in a statement, “and we continue to expand our enforcement efforts.”

Dataminr has a number of law enforcement clients, but has often struggled with Twitter’s anti-surveillance policy, canceling a CIA contract earlier this year over similar concerns. Still, the company has continued to provide some data to law enforcement clients through a more limited version of the tool.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 14, 2016

The Best Security Suites of 2016;  Three tips for dealing with an unruly desktop;  How to save and sync your passwords for free;  7 tricks to free up space on your iPhone;  Group chat comes to Snapchat;  Google Drive can now back up iPhones;  Facebook launches parents portal;  4 Windows Command Prompt tricks everyone should know;  10 Quick Tips to Fix Your Bad Photos;  Patch Tuesday is here and it’s a big one;  Netgear starts patching routers;  10 most innovative games of 2016;  The Xbox One is back on sale for $250;  The 10 Most Pirated Movies – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Best Security Suites of 2016 – Using your computer for games and social media is fun; keeping it safe isn’t. A security suite can be your one-stop solution. We’ve tested almost four dozen of them, and these 10 get our highest recommendation.

How to save and sync your passwords for free – Although most of the major password managers offer a free option, you don’t get what is arguably the most important option — password syncing — unless you pony up for a premium subscription. And that can run as much as $40 annually. Not anymore. Lastpass, already a popular option thanks to its affordable $1/month Premium plan, now offers syncing as part of its free service. That means you can access your passwords on mobile, desktop and Web without spending a dime.

Three tips for dealing with an unruly desktop – We’ve talked before about how to keep the desktop clean. But for desktop addicts it’s not so simple, is it? The desktop is a convenient place to quickly store files that you download or want to have readily available. At least at first. Over time, the files build up and before you know it the desktop is a mess again, the exact opposite of efficient. Here are three tools for dealing with the chaos.

7 tricks to free up space on your iPhone – We could all use a little extra storage on our iOS devices, right? Here are a few easy ways to quickly reclaim some of your iPhone’s or iPad’s storage space — and some tricks for making sure it stays clear.

Microsoft Translator now translates your in-person conversations – Microsoft Translator is taking another step toward eliminating the language barrier separating many people, making it possible to see real-time translations during your conversation with someone speaking a different language. It’s an essential business tool and a great way to expand your horizons while traveling, and it only requires each person to have a phone and the Microsoft Translator app.

Microsoft sets the stage for Cortana-powered smart devices – Microsoft’s making several under-the-hood improvements to Cortana, not the least of which will be an SDK for (finally!) consumer devices powered by the technology.

Group chat comes to Snapchat just in time for the holidays – Snapchat today announced a Group feature for you to start chats with up to 16 friends. You can see who’s present in a group chat at the bottom of the screen, and are given the option to start a private chat by selecting individual friends’ names. Just like all things on Snapchat, chats or snaps sent to a group are deleted after 24 hours and can only be replayed once. If you don’t open them in time, they’re also gone.

Slack swipes at Skype with video calls and reaction emoji – Slack, the workplace collaboration platform with 1.25 million paying users and 4 million overall, is adding one more key feature to its artillery of tools for people to communicate with each other, and it’s one that could help it pick up even more users away from other services like Skype and Gmail: it’s adding video calling, the audiovisual complement to the audio chat services that it released earlier this year. Group video calls, for those on paid tiers, can handle up to 15 people currently, Slack says. Slack says the video calling feature will be available first on Slack for Mac and Windows on desktop and Google Chrome in the next few days. Those on mobile will be able to join video calls but will experience them as audio only.

Facebook launches parents portal to help folks navigate their kids’ social experience – Facebook, the social networking app used by 1.8 billion people globally, does not provide figures for how much of that audience is comprised of minors — that is, people under the age of 18 (and theoretically over the age of 13). But chances are that these days it’s a significant number, when you consider some news out from the company today: Facebook is launching a new parent portal, aimed at helping adults navigate their minor charges through Facebook’s social media landscape.

Google Drive can now back up iPhones to make Android switching easier – Google has updated its website that guides iPhone owners through the process of making the change to Android. But more importantly, the company is also adding a new feature to its Google Drive app on iOS: the ability to instantly back up your contacts, calendar, and camera roll and store it in the cloud. That way, whenever you buy a Pixel or some other Android phone, all your stuff will be waiting in Google’s various apps. It’s all automatic when done this way, as opposed to before when you’d have to upload this stuff from several different apps. The new option is found in the settings menu under “backup.”

Google finally releases Gboard for Android, bringing search to the keyboard – Previously iOS-only, the update to Google Keyboard lets you find and send links, pics, and GIFs.

Google’s taking Brillo into smart homes with Android Things – Android is headed to the internet of things in the form of Android Things, an operating system that grew out of Project Brillo and will be able to get updates directly from Google.

4 Windows Command Prompt tricks everyone should know – Though many of its duties have been replaced by icons or tiles, there are still things a DOS command does better or faster, as any IT professional already knows. Most users don’t need to go into the deep weeds with command prompts (check out Microsoft’s A-Z reference if you do), but there are a few tasks and tricks that are handy for everyone to know.

9 travel hacks you’ll wish you knew all along – As always, knowledge is power. The more you plan, research and prepare, the better off you’ll be. With that in mind, I’ve rounded up these nine tricks to make your travels faster, easier and hopefully cheaper. Read on, and have a nice trip!

10 Quick Tips to Fix Your Bad Photos – You don’t have to be a professional to take top-notch photos. Follow these simple pointers to improve the quality of your snapshots.

Skype, WhatsApp face increased privacy regulation in Europe – The European Commission wants to update its aging privacy rules for electronic communications services, bringing messaging apps under its umbrella for the first time.

11 Stocking Stuffers for Your Smartphone Under $25 – We hunted down 10 great gifts for Android, iOS, and Windows 10 Mobile users who are looking to raise their smartphone game this holiday. Click through for some ideas sure to please everyone on your list.

Tech gifts for non-techies – It may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but not everyone out there is as in love with technology as we are? But that doesn’t mean that they won’t find tech gifts useful. And who knows, next year they too many be a tech-head!

Security:

Patch Tuesday is here and it’s a big one – The final scheduled patch dump of the year sees Microsoft deliver fixes for multiple products, while Apple has security updates for iOS, macOS, Safari, and iTunes, and Adobe patches nine products including Flash Player and InDesign.

Netgear starts patching routers affected by a critical flaw – Networking device manufacturer Netgear released firmware updates for several router models to patch a critical vulnerability that’s publicly known and could be exploited by hackers. The vulnerability was disclosed by a researcher Friday and affects multiple Netgear router models, many from the company’s Nighthawk series. The company initially confirmed the flaw in three models — R6400, R7000, R8000 — but it has since expanded the list to include five more. The models confirmed to be affected so far are: R6250, R6400, R6700, R7000, R7100LG, R7300, R7900 and R8000. This list might not be complete as Netgear continues to analyze the flaw’s impact to its entire router portfolio.

Security flaw in McAfee enterprise software gives attackers root access – The security company took six months to patch the set of security vulnerabilities.

Covert downloaders found preinstalled on dozens of low-cost Android phone models – Dozens of low-cost Android phone models come preinstalled with apps that covertly download and install adware and other unwanted programs, researchers said. One such app, known as H5GameCenter, displays ads on top of running applications. The image can’t be removed, and infected users report that when they uninstall the app, Android.DownLoader.473.origin quickly downloads and installs it again. The list of affected models included:

Watch out: These are biggest ransomware threats and they’ve grown even larger – Attacks using the two of the most prolific forms of ransomware spiked in November as one continues to be amongst the top global threats.

Company News:

Apple ordered to cough up $2m to store workers after denying rest breaks – A California court has ruled in favor of Apple Store workers who accused the iPhone giant of trampling over their employment rights. It is a bittersweet victory. The trial jury yesterday awarded store staff $2m after Apple was found to have illegally denied them meal and rest breaks, and was late giving departing workers their final paychecks. The class-action complaint was first filed in 2011 in the California State Court in San Diego by four former employees. It was later expanded to a class of more than 21,000 current and former workers who held jobs at the Apple Store as far back as 2007. Apple had been accused of a half-dozen violations of state labor laws, including California laws forbidding the failure to provide meal and rest breaks, full pay upon termination, and unfair business practices.

Google’s self-driving car unit becomes Waymo – Google is setting up its self-driving car unit as its own separate entity called Waymo under the Alphabet umbrella, the company announced today. The name is derived from its mission of finding “a new way forward in mobility.”

Qualcomm, Google to team up on Android Things, eye Internet of things apps – Next year Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors will have hooks into Google’s Android Things OS, which is now in a developer preview. Will the IoT OS race matter though?

Google snaps up smartwatch OS startup Cronologics to boost Android Wear – Google has acquired the team behind Cronologics, a company focused on the development of operating systems suitable for wearable devices. Started in 2014 by former Google business employees, the company hoped to one day create the go-to platform for smartwatches. With the introduction of Android Wear and Apple watchOS, this dream did not come to fruition, but there is still a future for the startup’s team. In a statement on the Cronologics website, the team said they are joining Google to “help grow the portfolio of watches powered by Android Wear.”

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe Steps Down – The Facebook-owned company is establishing new PC and mobile VR groups, and Iribe will be leading the PC VR team.

Games and Entertainment:

10 most innovative games of 2016 – It’s that time of year again — for several years in a row, I’ve picked the most innovative games of the year on any platform. This year was much, much easier than past years, mostly thanks to a wide selection of games and the debut of virtual reality headsets. Even the major releases from studios like Electronic Arts had brilliant innovations we’ve never seen before.

Star Wars: Battlefront goes free on Xbox One for EA Access members – Rogue One hits theaters this week, and so the currently most popular Star Wars game, Battlefront, is getting all the perks ahead of time. Game owners just got access to the Rogue One DLC on December 6th, and now some Xbox One owners are getting another special perk: free access to the game, assuming they have an EA Access subscription. The subscription, of course, provides access to the EA Access game vault.

The Xbox One is back on sale for $250 for last-minute holiday shopping – Microsoft is putting all of its Xbox One S bundles back on sale for $50 off for the holiday season. So, if you missed out on the many Black Friday deals, now’s a good time to get in on Microsoft’s latest console. The discount runs from December 11th until December 24th and is available at all the usual Xbox One retailers, including Amazon, Target, GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart, and the Microsoft Store. The news comes on the heels on Sony announcing a similar discount for the PlayStation 4, so no matter what your console of choice, you can get a decent deal between now and Christmas.

The 10 Most Pirated Movies – The Magnificent Seven ride back into town to take on the incumbents like Sully, Snowden, and Strange.

Here are all the countries where Pokemon Go is available – Can you get Pokemon Go yet? Check this list to find out.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Video: The top 5 things to know about the blockchain – The blockchain is best known as the system that validates Bitcoin transactions, but it has other potential uses. Here’s what’s essential to know about it.

Scientists: help archive climate data before Trump presidency – Fear is increasingly gripping the scientific community as it prepares for a hostile presidency under Donald Trump, someone who has loudly proclaimed skepticism about global warming. The president-elect has been assembling a team composed of vocal climate change deniers, among others, as well as individuals with business interests at odds with climate change efforts. Researchers worry the administration will unravel decades’ worth of research efforts, but they’re taking steps to minimize any potential data loss. The University of Toronto, for example, recently announced a ‘guerrilla archiving event’ that has the goal of ‘saving environmental data from Trump.’ The event, which is scheduled to take place on December 17, aims to ‘archive federal online pages and data that are in danger of disappearing during the Trump administration.’

Tech workers vow not to build database to track Muslims – More than 200 engineers, designers and executives pledge not to build a database for the Trump administration to track Muslims in the US.

Music industry asks Trump to crack down on illegal file-sharing and downloading sites – A group of music industry organizations sent President-elect Donald Trump a letter today, urging him to focus on intellectual property protections during his presidency, Variety reports. The letter, signed by companies like ASCAP, BMI, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), asks Trump to consider the issue of music piracy ahead of his Silicon Valley “tech summit” tomorrow. The letter claims that some search engines and file-sharing sites are guilty of “perversely abusing US law to underpay music creators,” by taking advantage of loopholes that allow people to download or host music illegally.

Net Neutrality – Why it should matter to you – Before this year’s presidential elections became the major factor dividing the US tech industry, it was “net neutrality” that split camps along lines of for or against. And if you thought the (legal) battle is over, you are definitely wrong. Although the FCC already ruled in favor of net neutrality last year, the changing of the guards opens up the real possibility, nay an explicit objective even, of undoing all that. The net neutrality debates are about to be reignited and, whichever side of the camp you stand on, the results will inevitably affect everyone.

There Are Twice as Many Species of Birds as We Thought, Study Finds– Bird-watchers of the world: your list may have just doubled. A recent study published in the journal PLOS One suggests that the way bird species are defined has traditionally been too narrow, and there are actually more than 18,000 bird species in the world—double previous estimates. Aside from making it trickier for bird fans to tick off all the species on their list, how we classify bird species has serious implications for conservation. If a bird is thought to be a subspecies of a healthy population, but is really a tiny population of its own species, it could be at risk of extinction without anyone realizing. That’s what happened recently with the red-bellied pitta, which was believed to be a single species but turned out to be 13 different species of bird, some of which were threatened, while others were of least concern.

Something to think about:

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

–       Bertrand Russell    (1872 – 1970)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Google publishes eight secret data requests from the FBI – In a post today, Google published a series of eight National Security Letters, in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation secretly requested subscriber information on specific accounts. The letters range from 2010 to 2015, but follow a nearly identical format, identifying a number of accounts and sometimes a specific time frame but providing no evidence or suspicion to justify the request.

Google was legally prohibited from disclosing the requests when they were first issued, but that prohibition has since been lifted. The letter lifting each so-called “gag order” is also included in the post. Google first acknowledged the declassification in a transparency report earlier this year, updating the range of “NSLs received” from 0-499 to 1-499.

In most cases, the FBI’s request is limited to the name, address and length of service for the given account, although two of the letters also ask for “electronic communications transactional records” associated with the account. That category of records, which was the subject of some debate in 2010, can include the IP addresses from which the service was accessed, although it does not include the content of emails. All eight of the orders were justified under Executive Order 12333, a controversial Reagan-era decree that is used to authorize a significant amount of domestic web surveillance.

Today’s post from Google is part of a wave of recently declassified data requests, In keeping the USA Freedom Act’s new classification guidelines, the Department of Justice has undertaken a broad review of the classification status of existing National Security Letters, which has resulted in a number of newly public data requests. In Google’s case, each of the published letters was declassified in the last six months.

Snowden: Donald Trump could get pal Putin to kick me out of Russia – NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned Donald Trump, as US President, could do a deal with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to extradite or imprison the whistleblower.

In an hour-long live-streamed video interview on Periscope with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey today, Snowden argued the US had trapped him in Russia when it cancelled his passport. The ex-NSA IT nerd added the incoming White House administration – which seemingly has better relations with the Russian government than the Obama regime – may be able to get him kicked out of the country and delivered into the hands of Uncle Sam, or otherwise imprisoned.

“It could happen, sure, but am I worried? Not really – I am very comfortable with decisions I made and know I did the right thing,” he said.

“If my personal security was the only thing I cared about I never would have come forward and revealed myself in public. I would have stayed at NSA making an incredible amount of money for very little work and [would] be spying on you.”

Up until now the US had worked hard to keep him in Russia – even going so far as to force down the President of Bolivia’s private jet to make sure Snowden wasn’t trying to flee. Snowden said he may also have to leave the Putin-led nation because he criticizes the Russian administration. There is no suggestion at this stage that Russia will eject or punish the American fugitive.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 12, 2016

The cheapskate’s guide to buying a new PC or Mac;  The Best Chromebooks of 2016;  20 Tips & Tricks to Make Windows 10 Easier;  Google is replacing Flash in Chrome once and for all;  Does Google listen in on your life? Should it?  Yahoo Answers makes its official mobile debut;  15 common Android problems and how to fix them;  The complete list of Alexa commands so far;  Windows Server 2016: The smart person’s guide;  Keyless-entry cars can be stolen with this new ‘mystery hack’ – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The cheapskate’s guide to buying a new PC or Mac – Only suckers pay sticker price for a new Windows PC or Mac. If you’re patient and willing to do some research, you can save hundreds of dollars and get a more powerful configuration than you ever dreamed possible. Here’s how.

The Best Chromebooks of 2016 – If a quick and easy way to get on the Web is all you need out of a laptop, a chromebook is the way to go. Here’s what to look for when shopping, and our top recommendations.

Jim Hillier: 20 Tips & Tricks to Make Windows 10 Easier – Whether just getting started with Windows 10 or looking to improve your experience, here are links to 20 tips and guides to help you get to know the new operating system better, all in one place for your convenience:

The best free tech gifts you can give – Even Santa won’t organize someone’s photo library or set up a password-management system. If you have the skills, prepare to become a holiday hero.

Does Google listen in on your life? Should it? – A widely held myth says Google eavesdrops on your life to improve search results. It doesn’t, but should it?

Google is replacing Flash in Chrome once and for all – Google told us in May that it would eventually block Adobe Flash Player content on Chrome. And today, the company is making good on its promise. Google is slowly rolling HTML5 out to users over the next couple of months, starting with one percent of users on the current version of Chrome. Everyone should have an updated Chrome by February, when the most recent beta version goes stable. This means that unless a website has an HTML5 content player, the Flash content won’t display. Users will have to enable it manually on a site-by-site basis. At first, the Flash permissions will only apply to sites that users are visiting for the first time, but by October, every site will require user permission to run Flash.

32 tips and tricks for Google Photos – Google Photos is a great way to store your personal photos and make them available across different devices — and with the holiday season upon us, the potential for generating lots of photos is at an especially high level. But the service is far more than just a virtual cloud locker. Photos has oodles of options, features and possibilities for viewing, manipulating and managing your digital memories. And many of them aren’t immediately obvious. Take a few minutes to scan through these tips and make sure you’re making the most of your Google Photos experience.

How to Use Google Maps Offline – To get the most out of Google Maps, you’ll need to make sure you have a reliable Internet connection. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use the navigation app in dead zones. Google Maps allows you to download maps of certain areas and neighborhoods to your phone so that they can be accessed offline. It’s important to note that you will need to be connected to the Internet in order to save these maps to your device. But once they’ve been downloaded, you’ll be able to access them anytime, whether your phone is online or offline.

The complete list of Alexa commands so far – Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, is infiltrating your home, your beach trips and even your ride to work. Now that there are four ways to interact with Alexa — with the Tap, Echo and Dot devices, and with the Amazon Fire TV — you might find yourself talking to her more often. The list of commands is expanding rapidly, as is the number of third-party services and devices that Alexa officially (and unofficially) supports. Here is the (almost) complete list of Amazon Alexa commands.

Contextual App Folder: The coolest Android app you’re not using – Android users looking for a contextual folder that will automatically alter its contents based on configured triggers should check out Contextual App Folder.

2016’s five best virtual reality headsets – This year made consumer virtual reality headsets, well, a reality. Major hardware players now have affordable offerings on the market, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Yahoo Answers makes its official mobile debut – Yahoo Answers has officially launched on mobile. As TechCrunch reported last month, Yahoo’s experimental app code-named Yahoo Hive had been rebranded as Yahoo Answers Now — a move that indicated Yahoo’s plans to bring its desktop Q&A site to the App Store. However, at the time, the app still required an invite in order to test it out — that restriction was lifted Thursday, and the app is open to all.

Windows Server 2016: The smart person’s guide – This guide covers details about Windows Server 2016, such as new features, minimum requirements, install options, and how Microsoft’s virtualized services seamlessly integrate with the cloud.

T-Mobile’s Digits looks to expand your phone number to all of your devices – The carrier launches a new program that lets you use a single number across all of your devices, and multiple numbers on one device.

15 common Android problems and how to fix them – Let’s face it, our phones aren’t perfect. When they aren’t running out of juice, they are slow, won’t power on, or have problems connecting to the Internet. These are some quick fixes for some of the most common problems Android owners face.

11 Secret Tricks, Hidden Gestures in Your Favorite iOS Apps – Your fingers have so much magic, you don’t even know!

WTF is daily fantasy sports? – If you’ve watched or been to a professional sports game in the past year you’ve no doubt seen advertisements for daily fantasy sports companies like DraftKings and FanDuel. In just a few years the industry has become the hottest thing in the sports world probably since cable TV.

Security:

Netgear users advised to stop using affected routers after severe flaw found – An advisory posted on Friday in Carnegie Mellon University’s public vulnerability database (CERT) said that Netgear’s R7000 and R6400 routers, running current and recent firmware respectively, are vulnerable to an arbitrary command injection flaw. If exploited, the vulnerability could let an unauthenticated attacker run commands with root privileges.

Attackers use hacked home routers to hit Russia’s 5 largest banks – Botnets made up of hacked home routers were used to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks against the five largest financial organizations in Russia.

Three serious Linux kernel security holes patched – The good news is developers are looking very closely at Linux’s core code for possible security holes. The bad news is they’re finding them. The latest three kernel vulnerabilities are designated CVE-2016-8655, CVE-2016-6480, and CVE-2016-6828. Of these, CVE-2016-8655 is the worst of the bunch. It enables local users, which can include remote users with virtual and cloud-based Linux instances, to crash the system or run arbitrary code as root. In short, it’s nasty.

AirDroid updated to fix major security holes – Last week it was reported that AirDroid, the popular app that allows Android users to read/send messages and remotely access files on their device from a PC/Mac, has been plagued with several security holes over the last several months. Security research firm Zimperium detailed how hackers could easily gain access to users’ information and Android device. Fortunately that news spurred AirDroid’s developers to take action, as fixes are now available for both the mobile app and PC/Mac clients.

Keyless-entry cars can be stolen with this new ‘mystery hack’ – As cars become more and more reliant on computers and operating systems, not just in their engines but in the ways drivers interact with them, they continue to be susceptible to hacks and other software-based attacks. The latest example comes from the US’s National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), which has identified a new tool that can allow thieves to unlock cars equipped with keyless-entry, start the engine, and simply drive off.

Ransomware scum offer free decryption if you infect two mates – The ransomware variant “Popcorn Time”, unrelated to the popular Bittorrent client by the same name, first tells users they have a week in which to pay one one bitcoin (US$770) in order to have their files decrypted. The menace, spotted by the MalwareHunter group, also offers victims the chance to infect two other users to avoid payment. Friends are confirmed as having been infected using a referral link and must both pay the ransom for the first victim to receive their decryption key for free. Users who insert the wrong decryption key may see their data deleted on the fourth incorrect attempt. Ransomware authors claim the ransom will be used to pay for food and shelter in Syria.

Ransomware attacks against businesses increased threefold in 2016 – The number of ransomware attacks targeting companies increased threefold from January to September, affecting one in every five businesses worldwide.

Obama orders review of Russian election hacking – Cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta led to a series of damaging leaks that dogged the Clinton campaign throughout the election season. Her opponent, Donald Trump, was dismissive of the hacks and the attribution of them to Russia. Although U.S. intelligence agencies assert that the attacks were conducted by Russian operatives, Trump told TIME magazine recently, “I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered.’ Why not get along with Russia?”

Company News:

AT&T begins refunding 2.7 million customers over bill cramming – If you’re an AT&T mobile customer (or you used to be one), you may see a bill credit in the next couple months or find a check in the mail soon. According to the FTC, AT&T has mailed the first round of checks to former customers refunding some of the money they spent due to the carrier’s alleged bill cramming issue. Current AT&T customers — of which about 2.7 million are affected — will see their refund in the form of a bill credit within the next 75 days.

Verizon won’t push Samsung’s Note 7 bricking update, but the other carriers will – Early this morning Samsung announced plans to finally extinguish the on-going fire that is the Note 7 once and for all here in the States by way of a software update that won’t allow the troubled phone to charge at all. Apparently not everyone involved is onboard with the move. Verizon (the parent company to TechCrunch’s parent company) quickly issued a follow up statement, citing the potential risks involved in killing the phone altogether. By Samsung’s count, around only 7 percent of Note 7 owners in the U.S. have clung to their devices, but the carrier is concerned with the safety of those last few.

Starbucks charts its digital future as CEO Schultz sets to depart – Starbucks’ technology chief plans to build on previous digital successes and add new technologies that boost personal engagements digitally and anticipate customer behaviors.

Workplace by Facebook begins to take shape – Workplace by Facebook has been in general release for just two months now, but it’s clear that Facebook has big plans for its enterprise social product. Just this week, at TechCrunch Disrupt in London, the company announced a new platform to integrate enterprise applications with Workplace, putting it in direct competition with Slack, the enterprise social darling of the moment.

Games and Entertainment:

Super Mario Run needs a constant internet connection to run – It a bit of news that will surely shift the value proposition of Mario’s long-awaited iPhone debut for legions of underground commuters, Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed this week that Super Mario Run will only work on a device with a constant internet connection. The legendary game creator chalked up the decision to security concerns, fears that an offline mode would make the game unstable and open it up to piracy. Those worries are likely due in no small part to the fact that Nintendo simply isn’t accustomed to developing games for platforms it doesn’t have on lock-down.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ huge open-world map revealed by Ubisoft – Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the latest entry in Ubisoft‘s tactical shooter series, and when it’s released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on March 7th next year, it will feature the largest open-world environment the developer has ever created. Wildlands takes place Bolivia, and the developers have managed to recreate the entire South American country in-game, offering a huge area for players to explore and carry out missions. For the first time, Ubisoft has revealed the map, along with details on just how expansive the game world really is.

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Resident Evil 7 demo arrives on Xbox One today, PC December 19 – PlayStation 4 owners have already had access to Capcom’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard demo for quite some time, but now it’s Xbox One’s turn. The demo is arriving on Xbox One today, giving players an early look at the next installment in the long running Resident Evil series. Beyond this Xbox One release, the demo will also be coming to PC later this month, with Capcom announcing a December 19 release date.

Off Topic (Sort of):

2016: The year flagship phones became skippable – For the cost of a brand new Google Pixel XL or iPhone 7 Plus, you can buy a pair of Huawei Mate 8s and still treat yourself to a decent dinner.

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and 18 others commit $1 billion to new cleantech fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, John Doerr and 15 other high-profile investors have formed a new venture firm, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, that will pour at least $1 billion into cleantech companies over the next 20 years. The firm’s goal, according to its own website will be: “to provide everyone in the world with access to reliable, affordable power, food, goods, transportation, and services without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.” BEV will invest in tech ventures at any stage, from seed through commercialization. The deals will focus on electricity, manufacturing, agriculture, buildings and transportation.

What Trump said about Apple, Alphabet and Facebook — the tech companies he’s meeting next week – In case you missed it: President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is convening a tech summit at Trump Tower next week, and top execs from Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and more are attending. As one person familiar with the summit plans told my boss, Recode’s Kara Swisher, “Look, this is obviously a circus.” So, let’s do some social media-searching acrobatics and see what Trump has said about these companies.

Something to think about:

“The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.”

–       H. L. Mencken    (1880 – 1956)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

European Surveillance Companies Were Eager to Sell Syria Tools of Oppression – In 2007, Syrians could only access the internet through state-run servers, and services like Microsoft Hotmail and Facebook were sometimes blocked. But Bashar al-Assad, who had been head of the Syrian Computer Society before becoming president, knew the internet would inevitably spread more, and he knew he had to tighten his grip over it.

On October 2, 2007, the head of the government-owned Syria Telecommunications Establishment, or STE, put out a call for companies to develop a surveillance system that would monitor all data flowing on the Syrian internet.

The tender listed a series of “services that must be monitored,” including web browsing, email, chat rooms, instant messaging, internet VOIP calls, encrypted HTTPS web connections, and the use of VPNs.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 9, 2016

Is antivirus software dead at last?  YouTube’s top trending videos for 2016;  A beginner’s guide to total Android customization;  9 free ’round-the-clock streaming apps for low-effort TV watching;  Ed Bott’s 10 most popular Windows 10 tips;  Group Test: All-In-One desktop systems;  Google Photos tips and tricks;  Apple’s CarPlay is now available in more than 200 different models – and much more news you need to know.

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Is antivirus software dead at last? – While the value of antivirus software has been diminishing for some time, it was arguably pushed over the edge by ransomware, which, by some recent estimates, evades 100% of antivirus systems, owing its success to the rapid succession of new variants. So, is traditional antivirus software dead?

Worried about identity theft? Then you should avoid these password pitfalls – We’re constantly reminded of the risks that come with bad passwords, yet many people persist in using obvious and easy-to-crack names, words, and patterns. Want to know if you’re at risk?

A beginner’s guide to total Android customization – We often, and quite rightly, complain about the way device makers customize the “stock” build of Android to suit their own needs. Customizing software is not inherently bad, but Samsung, LG, and others are usually doing it to push their apps and services. These companies frequently make unnecessary aesthetic changes for the sake of being different. You don’t have to put up with the look and feel of Android on your phone, though. You can customize things to better suit your own style and usage patterns—all it takes is a little legwork. The more time you want to spend on it, the more extensive the customization can be. It all starts with the right tools.

Ed Bott’s 10 most popular Windows 10 tips – How well do you know the ins and outs of Microsoft’s flagship operating system? Every week, Windows expert Ed Bott delivers a new trick or shortcut. We’ve collected his most popular tips.

Windows 10 tip: Turn on File History for automatic backups – Windows 10’s File History feature keeps regular copies of files so you can roll back to a previous version of a file or restore an entire system. The feature is designed to use an external drive, but you can also specify a network location. Here’s how.

How to use the Windows 10 View Your Network Properties feature to obtain detailed information – With Windows 10’s View Your Network Properties feature and the Network Reset command, troubleshooting has gotten a bit easier.

Google Drive update makes managing backups a little easier – A new dedicated sidebar option takes some of the mystery out of your device and app backups.

10 tips to get the most out of Google Wifi – Google Wifi does more than blanket your home in Wi-Fi signal. Here’s how to get your money’s worth.

9 free ’round-the-clock streaming apps for low-effort TV watching – For this type of lean-back, passive viewing, you’ll want a video app that has some kind of ‘round-the-clock streaming element, so you can start watching with minimal effort. These types of apps have become more commonplace over the last couple years, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a few that match your interests. Here’s a list of our favorites:

Group Test: All-In-One desktop systems – If you need screen real estate, computing horsepower and a degree of upgradability, an AIO desktop can be a good choice. We examine contenders from the top five PC vendors.

wps9BFF.tmpMicrosoft is about to turn a phone into a real PC – Microsoft is bringing a full version of Windows 10, complete with desktop app support, to ARM chipsets. The software giant demonstrated Windows 10 running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip today, complete with HD video playback, Adobe Photoshop support, and Microsoft Office. Microsoft expects ARM-based laptops to be the first to adopt this new version of Windows 10. Traditional x86 desktop apps will be emulated, making the experience seamless to the end user. Laptops might be the first, but it’s easy to see past that and realize that this means Microsoft is about to turn a phone into a real PC.

Microsoft Decides Minimum Spec for Mixed Reality on Windows 10 – Delivering mixed reality through HoloLens means an opportunity to push a range of other Microsoft products. So the launch will be backed by 20,000 Windows apps, 360-degree movies through the Microsoft Movies & TV app, WebVR using the Microsoft Edge browser, as well as the ability for users to drag and drop 3D objects out of Edge and “into their physical world.” If you’re wondering what mixed reality is, Microsoft created this informative video to help explain their take on it:

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Facebook custom picture frames go live for videos and photos – Facebook has rolled out the ability to create custom picture frames for videos and photos posted on the social network. Unlike pre-made frames that are used by everyone, this new feature enables users to create their own unique frame for their own videos and artwork. The move follows the trend set by a certain other app, enabling users to better modify and adorn their own content and, perhaps, making Facebook a touch more enticing in the process.

Google Photos tips and tricks – Google Photos has some powerful tools for tweaking and editing images. We show you how to take advantage of them to enhance and display your photos.

Hope is an app for millennial women to keep their BFFs close — but not too close – There are plenty of apps out there that purport to keep you “safe.” Apps that immediately phone your main contacts when you are threatened or attacked. Apps that allow you to share your location with key contacts. But for modern women, especially in big urban cities like New York or London, who would really rather not share literally all that stuff and perhaps find it all a bit alarmist, there isn’t anything that really suits their lifestyle. So a brand new app intends to speak to these confident, young women who like to keep their friends close, but not too close. Pitched as a “virtual BFF and concierge,” the Hope app wants to be the “social glue between millennial females.” It’s out on iOS now.

Apple’s CarPlay is now available in more than 200 different models – If reports are to be believed, Apple has scaled back ambitions to build its own car, but it’s still going strong with its more prosaic automobile offering: CarPlay. As spotted by 9to5Mac, the in-car operating system (like a stripped back version of iOS) is now available in more than 200 different vehicles. The latest list features cars from Audi, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen, including vehicles that are already on the market, and some 2017 models. You can check the full list here.

Bluetooth 5 is out: Now will home IoT take off? – Bluetooth is aiming straight for the internet of things as the fifth version of the wireless protocol arrives with twice as much speed for low-power applications. Bluetooth Low Energy, which gains the most from the new Bluetooth 5 specification, can now go as fast as 2Mbps (bits per second).

Security:

How to set up DIY video monitoring for home or office — subscription free – Plug-and-play video monitoring cameras are all the rage, but most of them lock you into a proprietary and expensive backend. With a little extra effort, you can create your own monitoring system, with the devices you choose.

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Backdoor accounts found in 80 Sony IP security camera models – Many network security cameras made by Sony could be taken over by hackers and infected with botnet malware if their firmware is not updated to the latest version.

Millions of routers allegedly backdoored with malware that can’t be removed – One of the hackers purportedly responsible for a zombie army of Mirai-infected IoT devices, claimed he infected millions of routers with malicious firmware which can’t be removed; a victim’s only recourse is to trash the router.

Yahoo fixes flaw allowing an attacker to read any user’s emails – Yahoo has fixed a severe security vulnerability in its consumer email service that could have allowed an attacker to read a victim’s email inbox. The cross-site scripting (XSS) attack only required a victim to view an email in Yahoo Mail. The internet giant paid out $10,000 to security researcher Jouko Pynnonen for privately disclosing the flaw through the HackerOne bug bounty,

Georgia says it’s traced an attempted voter hack to the Department of Homeland Security – Georgia’s secretary of state says the state was hit with an attempted hack of its voter registration system from an IP address linked to the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Russian cyberspies likely behind DNC breach move on to German election – A group of suspected Russian cyberspies blamed for interring in the U.S. elections is also attempting to influence the upcoming vote in Germany, according to the country’s domestic intelligence agency.

Company News:

Microsoft finalizes $26 billion LinkedIn acquisition, reveals what’s next – Microsoft secured regulatory approval for its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn earlier this week, and the software giant is finalizing the deal today. In a LinkedIn note, of course, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says he’s “enthusiastic about the common mission” of both Microsoft and LinkedIn. “As our two companies’ leadership teams have spent time together these last few months, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of and appreciation for LinkedIn’s relentless focus on its members.” Microsoft has a set of goals for its LinkedIn integration plan, including some specific areas where the company will leverage the social network.

Microsoft, Intel partner on Project Evo to bolster efforts in AI, security, mixed reality – At the recent Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) event, Intel and Microsoft announced a partnership focused on far-field speech communications, biometric security, and more.

Red Hat launches OpenShift on Google Cloud – Red Hat is expanding its OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud to the Google Cloud Platform. This move comes days after Red Hat completed bringing its JBoss software stack to OpenStack. With this new public cloud offering, enterprise users will be able to to build, launch, and manage applications on OpenShift Dedicated with Google Cloud Platform as their underlying cloud infrastructure. OpenShift was already available on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Pebble confirms Fitbit sale: Hardware is dead, software in maintenance mode – Pebble, the onetime darling of Kickstarter backers everywhere, has had a rough year. Despite the launch of the Pebble 2 this fall, the company had to lay off 25 percent of its workforce in March. And late last week, news broke that it would be selling to fitness wearable company FitBit for somewhere between $34 and $40 million. That paltry sum is about half of the $70 million that Intel allegedly offered for the company in early 2016, and it’s just a fraction of the $740 million that Citizen reportedly offered in 2015. It’s also a little less than the roughly $43 million that the company has cumulatively raised across its $10.2 million, $20.3 million, and $12.8 million Kickstarter pledge drives since April 2012.

Yik Yak lays off 60 percent of employees as growth collapses – Yik Yak has laid off 60 percent of employees amid a downturn in the app’s growth prospects, The Verge has learned. The three-year-old anonymous social network has raised $73.5 million from top-tier investors on the promise that its young, college-age network of users could one day build a company to rival Facebook. But the challenge of growing its community while moving gradually away from anonymity has so far proven to be more than the company could muster.

Games and Entertainment:

Ubisoft’s 30th anniversary putters across the finish line with free copies of Assassin’s Creed III – Ubisoft has given away some truly excellent games in 2016 to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Since June, players have been able to scoop up free copies of Beyond Good & Evil, Rayman Legends, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and more. So what classic gem did they choose to end on?

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YouTube’s top trending videos for 2016 – The list includes the indescribable madness of carpool karaoke, scientific inquiry, John Oliver, and Vlogger Casey Neistat. This year’s list is interesting because while it does have some weird items that are part of the YouTube tradition. There’s also a lot of particularly mundane items like a six-minute short from a sportswear company and a guided tour of first class. These videos received 550 million views and have been watched for over 25 million hours combined.

Super Mario Run hands-on: like Mario, just simpler – A week ahead of the release Nintendo’s first true smartphone game, Super Mario Run, we had a chance to spend a half-hour with the portable platformer. How does it feel? Surprisingly like a classic Mario game. Super Mario Run strips the core of a Mario game to its very basics. Unlike classic Mario games, in which you control the forward and backward movement of Mario, this game is an automatic runner, which means that Mario will run on his own. You control when he jumps.

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Pokémon GO is officially teaming with Starbucks for 7,800 new Gyms and PokéStops – Pokémon GO’s next big sponsor partner in the U.S. is Starbucks, which is going to host new gyms and PokéStops at 7,800 company-run Starbucks stores in the U.S. In addition to the new in-game locales, Starbucks is also making a Pokémon GO edition Frappuccino to celebrate the tie-up. What does Pokémon GO taste like in sugared coffee drink form? I have no idea, but I will definitely find out. This is similar to the McDonald’s partnership from closer to Pokémon GO’s launch earlier this year, wherein the fast food restaurant paid for Niantic to turn 3,000 locations in Japan into Gyms and PokéStops. The Frappuccino element adds a bit more reciprocity to the mix — there was no McPsyduck on the menu thought the McD’s deal.

Total PlayStation 4 sales cross 50 million mark – Despite Microsoft’s recent boost in Xbox One sales, the PlayStation 4 remains dominant. Sony has announced that total PS4 sales have crossed the 50 million threshold, thanks in part to what Sony calls the “best ever Black Friday week in the history of PlayStation.” That number includes sales of the freshly-released PlayStation 4 Pro, though at this early point in the console’s life, PS4 Pro likely didn’t contribute much to the overall tally of 50 million.

AMD strengthens gaming and VR on Linux with graphics improvements – Windows is the indisputable platform of choice for gaming and VR, but Linux is catching up fast as graphics companies ramp driver up and hardware support for the OS.

Bully launched on Android and iOS: here’s why you need it – Bully is a game made by Rockstar Games for game console, ported now to the Android universe for mobile users. This game was great when it was first released, and now that it’s time for mobile, it’s being re-launched with all components at once. Instead of waiting for DLC to be released, this game comes with all “unlockable” items from the title’s console run already in the game. This is a game that’s more than worth the few bucks it costs, and perfect for long trips to grandma’s house for Christmas.

DOOM free update 5 adds Infernal Run multiplayer mode and bots – DOOM has turned out to be one of the coolest games launched this year and Bethesda has been making gamers even happier about the game with free updates since launch. Free update five is now available and it adds in some cool new features that players will be thrilled about. One of the biggest additions in the update is a new multiplayer mode.

Hulu will now let you create profiles for up to six people – Hulu announced today that users can now create multiple profiles through the company’s website. More devices will support profiles over the next couple of weeks, but for now, it’s limited to Hulu.com. Each account can maintain up to six individual profiles that will remember everyone’s viewing history and Watchlist. It’ll also, of course, make recommendations. There’s also a kids-oriented profile to wall off inappropriate content. Yes! Finally, you can stop getting all those recommendations for Frasier because your mom loves that show, and instead get the more accurate Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recommendation.

Off Topic (Sort of):

DIY guide: How to add new tech to old cars – For those of you jealous of all the cool tech in the new cars my colleague Bill Howard gets to write about, there are lots of alternatives for adding technology to your current car. In most cases, add-ons aren’t as slick, or as powerful, as the versions you can get if you go all-in for a new vehicle. But they’re a lot less expensive, and some are quite effective. Done correctly, aftermarket solutions can even more flexible and future-proof than OEM systems. Remember when car phones were built into vehicles, and they got old really fast? Or when navigation systems all got built in and they got old really fast? Now, most of us use our smartphones for both of those functions — tied into our cars. Many of the add-ons we’ll look at in this article also leverage your smartphone, while others take advantage of the rapid pace of change and decrease in cost of consumer technologies.

Google offers virtual tour of Manhattan Christmas store windows – It’s a Christmas tradition in Manhattan for stores along Madison, Fifth Avenue, and other streets to put up elaborate and beautiful store window displays for Christmas. According to Google, over 5 million people travel to Manhattan during the holiday season just to see these holiday displays. If you can’t make it to Manhattan in person, Google is offering you a way to view these Christmas displays from the comfort of your home.

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Uber spells outs its expectations for riders – Uber has updated its Community Guidelines to lay down some ground rules for those who use the service to catch a ride. Usually when we hear about the expectations Uber has for people using its service, those rules revolve around drivers, but not today. Instead, Uber is letting you know what you can do to be a good rider.

Exploring the Most Popular Websites of the Last 20 Years – These sites can really give you some insight on the rises and falls of some of the biggest businesses in the Internet age.

Something to think about:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

–     Aristotle    (384 BC – 322 BC)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden leaks reveal NSA snooped on in-flight mobile calls – GCHQ and the NSA have spied on air passengers using in-flight GSM mobile services for years, newly-published documents originally obtained by Edward Snowden reveal.

Technology from UK company AeroMobile and SitaOnAir is used by dozens of airlines to provide in-flight connectivity, including by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, and many Arab and Asian companies. Passengers connect to on-board GSM servers, which then communicate with satellites operated by British firm Inmarsat.

“The use of GSM in-flight analysis can help identify the travel of a target—not to mention the other mobile devices (and potentially individuals) onboard the same plane with them,” says a 2010 NSA newsletter.

A presentation, made available by the Intercept, contains details of GCHQ’s so-called “Thieving Magpie” programme.

GCHQ and the NSA intercepted the signals as they were sent from the satellites to the ground stations that hooked into the terrestrial GSM network. Initially, coverage was restricted to flights in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, but the surveillance programme was expected to go global at the time the presentation was made.

US government seeks more data on Apple customers – Apple has seen a sharp year-over-year increase in the number US government demands for customer data.

The company’s first biannual report this year covers how many demands were made from global law enforcement and intelligence agencies — including the US government — for data it stores.

Apple said it reviewed 4,822 demands for device data from US authorities, affecting 10,260 devices, an increase of 26 percent on the same period a year earlier.

The company said that it was compelled to turn over data in over three-quarters of all cases.

Additionally, the company received 1,363 demands from US authorities, the top requesting country, affecting 9,090 accounts.

Apple turned over data in 84 percent of those cases.

But requests from the US were eclipsed by the number of requests made by Germany, where device ownership is especially high.

NSA, Wikimedia Foundation argue fate of surveillance lawsuit – The Wikimedia Foundation wants a judge to decide whether a major US surveillance program is constitutional. The US government says the organization has no business bringing the case to court.

That was the conflict at the heart of arguments lawyers for both sides gave in a federal appeals court Thursday in Richmond, Virginia. The program, often referred to as “upstream” surveillance, searches communications as they travel through underwater cables that pipe the internet around the world.

If allowed to continue with its case, the Wikimedia Foundation and a host of other nonprofits, non-government organizations and news publications that communicate internationally over the internet would ask a federal judge to determine whether the program violates the Fourth Amendment.

As privacy advocates see it, “This is a case about the warrantless collection of communications straight from the backbone of the internet,” Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an email. “Cases like this are important to establish that such unbounded surveillance violates the constitution.”

Facebook and Twitter Need to Shut Down Hate Speech Within 24 Hours, Europe Warns – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft aren’t responding to cases of online hate speech fast enough, according to the European Commission, which demands the technology companies review reports of hate speech less than 24 hours after they were first reported.

Only 40 percent of all notifications of hate speech were acted upon within a 24-hour timeframe, found a European Commission report, a report that forms part of the governing body’s first evaluation into how Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft fight online hate speech more than six months after the four signed up to a code of conduct in Europe in May 2016.

European Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová said in a statement this week, “It is our duty to protect people in Europe from incitement to hatred and violence online. This is the common goal of the code of conduct.”

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