Tag Archives: Microsoft

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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Chromecast audio demo

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

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Microsoft

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–      Julius Caesar

Downloads:

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

Features:

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

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

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

PDF Encryption support (read & write).

Flatbed and document feeder support.

Duplex scanning support.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Click here.

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

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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Fifty bucks. Remember when all tablets were $500?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Downloads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – September 9, 2015

The essential guide to powerline Ethernet adapters;  These second-screen apps make NFL games even more fun;  When your Windows image backup fails, try this;  Adblock Plus releases its web browser for iOS;  YouTube forces AdBlock users to watch unskippable video ads;  Turn Chrome’s new tab page into a to-do list powerhouse;  The best scanning apps for Android and iPhone;  Selling your old iPhone: Online vs. in-store trade-ins;  Android porn app takes your mugshot, holds your device ransom;  Windows Media Center lives on with unofficial Windows 10 version;  Kaspersky Lab pushes emergency patch for critical vulnerability;  Opera Mini browser for Android gets new data compression tech;  Amazon expected to release $50 6-inch Fire tablet this year;  Airbnb Hosted Nearly 17 Million Guests This Summer;  The FIFA 16 demo is here – this is how you play;  Netflix’s new excuse for no offline playback is even lamer than the last one;  If you’re buying a TV, know these three letters: HDR;  AirConsole turns browsers into a local multiplayer console;  Apple refused to wiretap an iMessage account for the Justice Department.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

It’s football season! These second-screen apps make NFL games even more fun to watch – According to the NFL, 70 percent of fans use a second screen while watching football. It’s easy to understand why: mobile devices—and the apps that run on them—give us easy access to player stats and analysis, provide interactive features to supplement the big-screen experience, and offer a convenient way to communicate with other fans watching the game. We’ve rounded up seven of the best second-screen apps to enhance your football viewing. Take them for a spin when the season kicks off later this week, and we’re sure you’ll be reaching for them along with your remote every Thursday and Sunday until the end of Super Bowl 50.

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The essential guide to powerline Ethernet adapters (including 12 hands-on reviews) – This roundup of powerline ethernet adapters is continually updated. It was originally published on January 15, 2015, updated in March and again in June 2015 and now again in early September,. Click here if you would like to read that original story as published in January 2015. This latest iteration contains entirely new reviews of the Extollo LANsocket 1500 and TP-Link TL-PA8030P KIT, plus updated reviews of the D-Link DHP-701AV and the Trendnet TPL-420E2K.

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The seven apps you need to tame your email overload – Managing email for most people is an irritating and time-consuming task, but thankfully there’s a host of email apps that make it easier.

When your Windows image backup fails, try this – This has to be one of the worst things that can happen in the digital world. You create a backup and then, when you need it, it doesn’t work. That’s why I recommend making two backups. But let’s see if we can fix the problem at hand.

Adblock Plus releases its web browser for iOS – Makers of the popular ad-blocking software Adblock Plus have launched a stand-alone mobile browser for iOS. The Adblock Browser launched as a beta on Android back in May, but has not been available on Apple’s App Store until now. The company is marketing the software primarily as a way to block ads when browsing webpages online, but says this feature offers a range of other benefits, including protecting users from malware, and saving their battery life and mobile data. Users can block all ads by default or whitelist favorite sites.

Opera Mini browser for Android gets new data compression tech – The latest version for the mobile browser adds a new High compression mode that minimises data expenditure without affecting the page display.

YouTube forces AdBlock users to watch unskippable video ads – Browser extensions that block website advertisements are becoming very common these days and their use is expected to only grow in the next few years. Some websites that survive on advertising have turned to things like tip jars or even politely asking users to turn off their ad-blockers. Google’s YouTube, however, is taking a bit more of a direct approach: users with the AdBlock Plus extension installed are forced to watch video advertisements before the actual content video plays.

Turn Chrome’s new tab page into a to-do list powerhouse – It’s just one program on your PC, but for many of us the browser is the central tool we use for work, play, and communication. That’s why so many people love Google Chrome and its healthy ecosystem of extensions and apps. Today we’re going to look at one way to turn your new tab page into something a little more productive than you’ve got now thanks to Microsoft’s recently acquired to-do list app Wunderlist.

The best scanning apps for Android and iPhone – Never bother with a scanner again. Thanks to high-quality cameras on today’s top smartphones and nifty behind-the-scenes tech, scanning a document or photo with great results is as easy as opening an app and snapping a picture. Here are CNET’s top picks for the best apps to turn your phone into a scanner.

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Evernote Scannable in action. Josh Miller/CNET

Twitter for Windows 10 catches up with group messages and other new features – Twitter for Windows has been a perfect example of Microsoft’s app problems; sure, the app exists, but it has fallen far behind Twitter’s smartphone apps in terms of features and functionality. Today, Twitter for Windows is taking a much-needed step forward and adding group messaging, multi-account support, lists, and other improvements.

Selling your old iPhone: Online vs. in-store trade-ins – The latest iPhones are just around the corner, and that means some Apple fans may be looking to sell their old devices. Dozens of websites offer easy trade-in programs for old smartphones. Some retailers also offer customers the option to sell their used devices. Even wireless carriers are making it easy for customers to trade in their iPhones and upgrade to new ones. Which option is right for you? That’s the question I answer in this edition of Ask Maggie.

Raspberry Pi gets its first official touchscreen display – A year after it was first announced, the Raspberry Pi touch display finally launched on Tuesday. The new component means Raspberry Pi hackers can now experiment with an officially sanctioned 7-inch, 800-by-480, 10-point multi-touch LCD display for their Pi projects. The $60 touchscreen does cost more than the Pi itself, but that comes down to component costs. The screen uses a display serial interface (DSI) and digital parallel interface (DPI) that requires a driver board to interface with the Pi. The display also requires its own power connection, which can be shared with the Pi over USB.

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How to delete the Windows.old folder from Windows 10 – Did you upgrade your PC to Windows 10? If so, ever wonder what happened to the previous version of the OS? It probably disappeared into the mists of Windows past, right? Wrong. Your old OS didn’t get erased; rather, it’s lingering in a system folder called, aptly enough, Windows.old. And depending on the size of that version, it could be hogging a lot of precious space. First things first: If you think you might want to downgrade from Windows 10 back to the previous version, don’t delete that folder.

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Windows Media Center lives on with unofficial Windows 10 version – Although Microsoft has officially discontinued its old living room PC software, some users on the My Digital Life forums have apparently patched Windows Media Center to run on Microsoft’s latest operating system. Why this matters: While Microsoft has claimed that hardly anyone uses Windows Media Center anymore, it remains a popular program among hardcore home theater PC users, many of whom are avoiding Windows 10 so they can keep using the living room software. This workaround could let users enjoy the benefits of Windows 10 without giving up Windows Media Center, but we’d still advise against it.

Security:

It’s still 2015, and your Windows PC can still be pwned by a webpage – Microsoft has today released patches for 56 security vulnerabilities in its products. People should apply the updates as soon as possible because miscreants are actively exploiting at least two of the holes – and likely more by the time you read this. The September patch batch includes critical fixes for Internet Explorer and Edge, Office, and Windows. Users and administrators are being advised to test and install the updates on the double. Of the 56 vulnerabilities, 14 in Internet Explorer, four in the supposedly super-whizzbang-secure Edge browser, one in Windows’ handling of OpenType fonts, four in Windows’ Journal file handling, and four in Microsoft Office, allow an attacker to remotely execute evil code on a victim’s system. Microsoft’s September bulletins in full:

Android porn app takes your mugshot, holds your device ransom – Bad news, mobile porn viewers! The FBI knows what you’re up to. They’ve taken your mugshot and they’re going to need you to transfer $500 via PayPal before you can do anything with your phone again. No, it’s not part of some crazy government crackdown on Internet porn. It’s a shakedown attempt some enterprising criminals concocted. The idea is simple enough: trick a user into installing an app that disguises itself as a porn video player, sneak a few extra permissions in thinking that they’re so eager to get at the goods that they won’t read them, and then hijack the startup process and hold the infected device for ransom.

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Severe external drive vulnerability prompts Seagate to issue emergency patch – Watch out Seagate wireless external hard drive owners—your peripheral may have serious flaws in it that will open your files to malicious attackers. The good news is Seagate has already issued a patch for the problem. The vulnerabilities primarily affect owners of Seagate Wireless Plus Mobile Storage, Seagate Wireless Mobile Storage, and LaCie Fuel devices purchased since October 2014.

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Kaspersky Lab pushes emergency patch for critical vulnerability – Kaspersky Lab has released an emergency patch for some of its antivirus products after a security researcher found a critical vulnerability that could allow hackers to compromise computers. The flaw was discovered by vulnerability researcher and Google security engineer Tavis Ormandy, who mentioned it Saturday on Twitter, before sending the bug’s details to Kaspersky.

Researcher demands FireEye pay up for zero-day vulnerabilities or suffer his ‘cold silence’ – A security researcher has demanded that FireEye pay him for several zero-day vulnerabilities he found in the firm’s security products, and he has threatened that he will otherwise remain silent about the bugs’ details.

Company News:

Airbnb Hosted Nearly 17 Million Guests This Summer – Growth is up and to the right for Airbnb. Nearly 17 million people worldwide booked their guest stays with the peer-to-peer lodging platform this summer, according to a new travel report. That’s a whopping 353x’s surge in the last five years – and a far cry from the three guests Airbnb hosted before officially launching in the summer of 2008. Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were just trying to figure out a way to pay rent at the time and made a website that advertised $80 to rent an air mattress on the floor of their apartment for a night plus breakfast in the morning. Three people, two guys and a girl, decided to try it out and Airbnb was born.

Facebook Equips Business Pages With Mobile Storefronts For Shopping And Services – Likes ≠ Dollars. Facebook wants Pages to actually earn money for the 45 million small businesses that use them. So today Facebook is upgrading Pages with a tabbed mobile layout that lets them display storefront “Sections” where users can “Shop” for products or view a list of “Services” the business offers. The company is also making calls to action on business Pages, such as “Call Now,” “Send Message” and “Contact Us,” bigger, more colorful and more prominent beneath the cover image. The “Shop” section will include Buy buttons powered by Facebook’s partnership with Shopify so users can check out without leaving the social network. Facebook is also testing Buy buttons that link out to a business’ traditional website.

Netflix to launch in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan – After becoming available in much of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Netflix now looks to expand its reach to Asia. Netflix announced plans to enter four new markets in Asia on Wednesday as the Internet video streaming service continues its global expansion. Netflix will officially become available in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan early next year, the company said.

Amazon Prime Now in Seattle expands to offer meal delivery – Last month, Amazon launched its Prime Now delivery service in its home city, Seattle. The service offered one-hour and two-hour delivery of thousands of items, including things like a nice bottle of wine for dinner or one of its own pieces of hardware. Now, nearly two weeks after the initial launch, Amazon has announced an expansion of its Seattle delivery service, including meal delivery from select local restaurants as part of its offering.

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Amazon expected to release $50 6-inch Fire tablet this year – Amazon was one of the first device makers to really put its full weight behind Android as a tablet operating system. The original 7-inch Kindle Fire tablet was released in 2011 at an unheard of $100 price point. However, that proved to be Amazon’s high-point when it comes to Android tablets. Attempts to sell more premium slates have fallen flat, but now the retailer is expected to announce a $50 Android tablet in time for the holidays. This report comes from the Wall Street Journal, which cites the always-reliable “people familiar with the matter.”

Microsoft Confirms Purchase Of Cloud Security Firm Adallom – Microsoft announced this morning that it purchased cloud security firm Adallom. According to sources familiar with the matter, the deal cost the Redmond-based software giant $250 million. That dollar amount is below previously reported figures pegging the value of the purchase north of $300 million.

Games and Entertainment:

Netflix’s new excuse for no offline playback is even lamer than the last one – Apparently you don’t want offline video support after all. And if you had it, you wouldn’t know what to do with it.

The FIFA 16 demo is here – this is how you play – Those anticipating the release of the next big video game based on the world’s most popular sport, soccer (football if you’re outside the US), are in for a treat: the demo for EA Sports’ FIFA 16 should be available later today for the PlayStation 4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. Those in New Zealand can get to downloading now, while those in North America might need to wait until later in the day, with exact times varying based on console and region of the world.

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Minecraft 0.12.1 update brings multiplayer cross-platform action – Minecraft fans listen up, a big update is coming and you will love it. With the new update players on both of these versions will be able to play together on a local network. That means you can invite friends over and play with them on the same servers on your Windows 10 PC while they are playing on mobile devices or tablets. Up to five people can play together over Xbox Live and all players will be able to tweak their gear with special effects from enchanting tables. This is the largest update for Pocket Edition ever published. The update brings new touch controls, controller support, and a controller mapping screen.

Get the ‘Witcher 3’ Expansion Pack on Oct. 13 – The expansion pack features more than 10 hours of new adventures as well as “new characters, powerful monsters, unique romance, and a brand new storyline shaped by gamer choices,” the Polish developer said. Players will “step again into the shoes of Geralt of Rivia, a professional monster slayer, this time hired to defeat a ruthless bandit captain, Olgierd von Everec, a man who possesses the power of immortality,” according to CD Projekt RED. The expansion will also feature a new system of Runewords, which are said to “significantly” affect gameplay. Under the new system, each Runeword impacts a different aspect of in-game mechanics, so you’ll have to experiment with various strategies and tactics.

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AirConsole turns browsers into a local multiplayer console – Meet AirConsole, the virtual web-based gaming console that turns any browser into a local multiplayer gaming experience and your smartphone into controllers. Things couldn’t get any simpler than this. Simply go to the AirConsole website and get the code to connect as many smartphones as possible. The limit is based on how many simultaneous players a game supports. While you can technically use your smartphone’s web browser to connect to the AirConsole running on your computer or tablet, there are also dedicated mobile apps for both iOS and Android.

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Disney’s fantastic cloud movie locker now works with Amazon, Microsoft video apps: Buy once, watch everywhere – Disney Movies Anywhere is what UltraViolet should have been; buy a movie once, and watch it on nearly any device — without needing to download a separate app or video player. It already works across Android and iOS (plus popular digital retailers like Vudu), and today Disney is adding Amazon Video, Microsoft Movies, and TV to the mix. Next week, a Disney Movies Anywhere app will launch for Roku’s set-top boxes and Android TV. So pretty soon it’ll be incredibly simple to watch your Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars films regardless of which device is in your hands or in your living room. Once you’ve linked your Disney account, all of those movies will appear right inside Amazon Video and also Microsoft’s video apps for Windows and Xbox.

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Ubisoft to open Malaysia theme park in 2020 – On Monday, Ubisoft announced plans to open a theme park in Malaysia, one that it describes as being “next-generation”. This will give its fans a chance to experience its games as a real-world adventure, the company says, at least if you’re in or near Malaysia. The theme park won’t be opening until 2020, but when it does it’ll offer 10,000 square meters of attractions, rides, shows, and more, all of them featured indoor for all-weather and year-round enjoyment.

Off Topic (Sort of):

LG develops 111-inch double-sided 4K OLED TV – The hottest tech in displays right now is OLED and 4K. Combine the two and you have a fantastic, high resolution at any size TV, but LG has gone a step further by developing a double-sided 4K OLED TV. If that wasn’t enough to impress you, they also made 111-inches big. The massive, unique display is being shown off at IFA Berlin this week. LG achieved the 111-inch size by combining three 65-inch OLED panels while keeping the display just a handful of millimeters thick. A smaller 55-inch double-sided TV was also present with its thickness listed as just 5.3mm.

If you’re buying a TV, know these three letters: HDR – If you’re looking to buy a new TV, prepare to hear a lot about HDR. After bigger screens, and thinner screens, and 3D screens, and curved screens, and 4K screens, HDR is the new flavor of the season in television technology and it’s one worth paying attention to. High dynamic range is probably most familiar to people through the HDR mode on their digital cameras. It’s designed to deliver a picture that has greater details in the shadows and highlights a wider range of colors. HDR in televisions pursues the same goal. The color palette is wider, blacks are deeper and whites are brighter.

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MESSE BERLIN – An HDR TV displayed by Panasonic at the IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin on Sept. 4, 2015.

Geeky club sparked Apple’s first computer, gave Woz a ‘eureka’ moment – A 1975 meeting in a Silicon Valley garage inspired the young, shy Steve Wozniak to build the Apple I — and ignite a legacy. Woz tells the tale to CNET.

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Here’s How Many People Are Still Rocking the Original iPhone – Apple is expected to announce two new iPhones on Wednesday, an annual update to its most successful product lines. This will mark the ninth year that Apple has introduced a new set of iPhones. The company has sold 10 different variations of the iPhone, from the 2007 original (which launched without the App Store) to last year’s supersized iPhone 6 Plus. In total, Apple has sold more than 700 million iPhones since 2007. But just how many people are using a spiffy new iPhone 6 Plus compared to the older models?

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Source: Fiksu Get the data

Space whisky returns to Earth! Here are the taste test results – In 2011, samples of scotch whisky were sent to mature aboard the International Space Station. Now they’re back and sporting a different flavor than their terrestrially mellowed counterparts.

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Something to think about:

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

–       John Adams

Downloads:

Dashlane: The password manager, perfected – Keeping track of passwords and making them secure is startlingly simple with Dashlane’s free password manager. Automatically import your passwords from Chrome or any other browser into your secure password vault. Save any missing passwords as you browse. Make a new password right within your browser. Get automatic alerts when websites get breached.

And with our auto-login, you will never have to type any password on any of your devices again. It’s that simple.

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DocFetcher – DocFetcher is an Open Source desktop search application: It allows you to search the contents of files on your computer. — You can think of it as Google for your local files. The application runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, and is made available under the Eclipse Public License.

Basic Usage:

The screenshot below shows the main user interface. Queries are entered in the text field at (1). The search results are displayed in the result pane at (2). The preview pane at (3) shows a text-only preview of the file currently selected in the result pane. All matches in the file are highlighted in yellow.

You can filter the results by minimum and/or maximum filesize (4), by file type (5) and by location (6). The buttons at (7) are used for opening the manual, opening the preferences and minimizing the program into the system tray, respectively.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Apple refused to wiretap an iMessage account for the Justice Department – For years, Tim Cook has been telling users that iMessage’s encryption makes it impossible to wiretap — and now, the Justice Department seems to have found out the hard way that he’s right. According to a New York Times report, Apple received a court order from the Justice Department this summer, demanding real-time access to a suspect’s iMessage account. Apple replied that iMessage encryption made the request impossible. The company later handed over iCloud backups of the suspect’s messaging history, but the request for real-time access (akin to a traditional wiretap) remained unfulfilled.

There are still a number of unanswered questions around the report. We don’t know the nature of the court order or the justification for Apple’s refusal, so it’s difficult to assess the legality of either one. Still, federal agencies have been trying and failing to wiretap iMessage accounts for years now, so the central facts of the story are very plausible. In its most recent transparency report, Apple reported more than 250 national security requests, and said 6 percent of law enforcement requests pertained to user account data.

US claim on the world’s servers at a crossroads – The Obama administration on Wednesday will argue to a US appeals court that companies operating in the US must comply with valid warrants for data—even if that data is stored on overseas servers.

Much of the tech sector, from Amazon and Microsoft to Verizon, oppose the US government’s position in the closely watched case. These companies and a slew of others maintain that the enforcement of US law stops at the border. They say the global community is already skittish about trusting US-based tech companies in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. So a ruling siding with the Obama administration would fuel that mistrust, conflict with foreign data protection laws, and place the tech sector at risk of foreign government sanctions, the companies said.

The two-year-old dispute before the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York concerns e-mail stored on Microsoft’s servers in Dublin, Ireland. As part of a drug investigation, US authorities served Microsoft with a warrant demanding access to e-mail on an overseas Microsoft account. Microsoft balked, writing in a court brief that “The government cannot seek and a court cannot issue a warrant allowing federal agents to break down the doors of Microsoft’s Dublin facility.”

Norwegian Pirate Party provides DNS server to bypass new Pirate Bay blockade – Following a court-ordered block of The Pirate Bay and a number of other file-sharing websites in Norway, the Norwegian Pirate Party (Piratpartiet Norge) has now set up free, uncensored DNS servers that anyone can use to bypass the block. While the DNS servers are based in Norway, anyone can use them: if your ISP is blocking access to certain sites via DNS blackholing/blocking, using the Piratpartiet’s DNS servers should enable access.

A few days ago, TorrentFreak reported that the Oslo District Court had sided with several Hollywood studios and domestic Norwegian rights holders in a case that sought to block a number of sites, including The Pirate Bay, Viooz, and ExtraTorrent. The court ordered that the country’s major ISPs, including Telenor, TeliaSonera, NextGenTel, and Altibox, must block the sites.

The Norwegian Pirate Party, as you can probably imagine, isn’t happy with the court-ordered block. In response, it has set up an unblocked DNS server—dns.piratpartiet.no—and a website that shows you how to change your DNS server settings on Windows, Mac, or Linux.

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–     Barack Obama

Downloads:

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

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

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

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

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

Program Features:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

√ Merge multiple similar rules or duplicate existing ones.

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

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

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

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

√ Protection to unauthorized uninstallation.

√ Possibility to restore previous settings at uninstallation.

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

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

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

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

ProBalance – Keep your PC responsive during high CPU loads!

Gaming Mode 2.0 with Bitsum Highest Performance power plan – new

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

SmartTrim – The first-ever intelligent RAM optimizer – new

Real-time CPU affinity and process priority optimization!

Automate and control process settings and power plans

Light-weight native code with negligible resource use

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

Unique system responsiveness metric to quantify your experience!

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

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – August 28, 2015

No, Microsoft is not spying on you with Windows 10;  A Battle Royale Of Digital Assistants: The Big 5;  4 overblown Windows 10 worries;  Free or discounted software licenses, cloud resources for students;  How to cure Windows 10’s worst headaches;  Facebook reaches 1-billion users milestone;  How ad blockers can improve your online safety and sanity;  Report: Most ‘Women’ on Ashley Madison Were Actually Fake;  Seven essential mobile apps for students;   Instagram supports landscape & vertical photos;  NFL without cable: A cord cutter’s guide for the 2015/2016 season;  The hidden cost of those ‘free’ gambling apps;  FIFA 16 demo lets you try women’s teams and more;  Pew report: Americans frown upon phone use in social settings;  Associated Press sues FBI over fake news story;  BitTorrent patches flaw;  25 Quotes That Take You Inside Albert Einstein’s Revolutionary Mind.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

No, Microsoft is not spying on you with Windows 10 – The Windows 10 privacy agreement doesn’t mean Microsoft is secretly stealing the data from your hard disk. Where do people come up with these crazy ideas? There is apparently a growing and very vocal population of people who believe that Windows 10 is basically a 1984 telescreen come to life. They are convinced that with Windows 10 Microsoft has built a spying apparatus not seen since the height of the Cold War, scraping up every detail of your life and feeding it back to Redmond for who knows what nefarious purposes. They’re going to need lots of tinfoil. They’re also either wildly misinformed or deliberately agitating. Unless, of course, they’re just crazy, which is entirely possible based on some of what I’ve read.

4 overblown Windows 10 worries – There are a lot of alarms going off about Windows 10’s effect on your security and privacy. We look at the four top concerns to find out whether they’re true or not, and tell you what you can do about them.

How to cure Windows 10’s worst headaches – Despite the many highlights of Windows 10—Cortana, virtual desktops, windowed Windows Store apps, the revamped Start menu, DirectX 12, among others—there are still some annoyances with the new operating system. Windows 10 can reset your default browser if you upgrade; updates are now mandatory; and behind the scenes, the new OS is a file-sharing machine. Those are just a few of Windows 10’s notable headaches, but the good news is there are fixes for all these problems. Even better? Most are really easy to implement. Let’s dig in.

Free or discounted software licenses and cloud resources for students and educators – Get ahead of the class by using these offers for free or discounted software licenses and cloud resources available to university students and educators around the world. Many of the biggest names in IT provide free or heavily discounted access to software for students, in the hopes of converting them to paid customers after graduation. Students and educators, check out these available options.

Seven essential mobile apps for students – I’ve cut through the clutter and put together a list of educational apps that have something to offer students in middle school, high school and college. You’ll be able to use them with your Android or Apple device, and often your desktop browser. Some of them are so handy, it almost makes me want to go back to school again. I said “almost.”

A Battle Royale Of Digital Assistants: The Big 5 – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook now all have their own digital assistants that they’ve been pumping tons of cash into. There are lots of smaller companies also looking to break into this space (which I’ll soon look at separately) but these tech titans clearly have the upper hand at the moment. In a lot of ways most of these services struggle in similar areas where the technology isn’t quite where it needs to be, but each of these assistants definitely have their own flavor with some being clearly being better than others.

Chrome is getting more aggressive about silencing autoplay videos – Chrome is getting more aggressive about that least popular web feature: autoplay video. A new post from engineer François Beaufort laid out Chrome’s new approach, which will block playback as long as a given autoplay video is in a background tab. The browser will still load the video as soon as the tab is opened, but it won’t start it until you visit the page itself, hopefully preventing the usual surprise when a late-loading video starts up in the background. Under the new setup, that video won’t play until you click back to the relevant tab.

Instagram stops being a square, supports landscape & vertical photos – Instagram has finally gotten with the times and dropped its requirement that photos be in a square format. The social network has updated both its iOS and Android apps and now allows users to post photos in landscape and vertical orientations, in addition to the classic square. The same size change is applied to videos too. This will likely be a welcome change to Instagram users, who for years already have been taking photos and video on devices with rectangular screens.

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Microsoft Snip lets you quickly annotate and add audio to screenshots – If taking screenshots is part of your job, Microsoft is aiming to make it easier with a new tool called Snip. Available as a free beta, Snip lets you cut out a portion of the screen, annotate it with a drawing tool or voice notes, and then save or share the results. It’s unclear if Microsoft is planning to charge for the app, which was first spotted by The Verge. While Snip is hardly the only screen capture tool for Windows, its simplicity (and the fact that it’s free) makes it worth considering. If you don’t need the more extensive options of tools like Greenshot and PicPick, Snip could be a more efficient option.

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LG’s full-sized tablet keyboard rolls up for easy travel – The latest Bluetooth keyboard for tablets offers full-sized keys and yet rolls up into a stick resembling a big Tootsie Roll. LG makes it and it’s appropriately named the Rolly keyboard. Bluetooth pairing starts immediately once the keyboard is unrolled and LG says it can be paired with two mobile devices via Bluetooth 3.0. That feature can’t be used simultaneously of course; even though you can pair with two devices, the Rolly only works with one at a time.

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How to quickly shut down Windows 10 – It must be a point of pride in Redmond that even after all these years, you still have to click “Start” to shut down your computer. Granted, the Start button is no longer labeled that way, having evolved into a Windows-logo button back in Vista. But that’s still what it’s called, and still how Microsoft refers to it. So even in Windows 10, you have to click “Start” to shut down your PC. Then you click Power, and finally Shut Down. I’ll never understand why Microsoft has steadfastly refused to add a one-click Shut Down button to the desktop. Fortunately, there are faster ways to turn off your computer.

Adobe aims to bring Photoshop to mobile masses with upcoming app – Photoshop is so well known that the product name is synonymous with photo editing. But the software itself is a success only on personal computers, not smartphones or tablets. Photoshop’s maker, Adobe Systems, hopes that will change in October at its Max conference for developers and creative professionals when it introduces a new Photoshop app for editing photos on Apple’s iPhones and iPads initially and Android-powered devices later. The free software, called only Project Rigel for now, is designed to bring a more accessible interface to what can be a dauntingly complex program on PCs.

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Twitch meets Periscope with new streaming app Mirrativ – Move over Periscope, there’s a new live-streaming app vying for our attention. Launching today, Mirrativ (a portmanteau of mirror and narrative) lets you broadcast whatever is happening on the screen of your smartphone or tablet. It combines untethered mobile broadcasting, screen sharing and social interactions into one single app. You can use Mirrativ in beta on Android starting today, with iOS following in the coming weeks.

Ex-Apple CEO John Sculley outs pretty and cheap Obi Worldphones – Just to be clear, it’s Obi Worldphones, not Obi Wan. Terrible pop culture references aside, this news isn’t something you see everyday. John Sculley, who, at one point in time, lead one of the world’s biggest tech companies, has co-founded and announced two new smartphones. While some already point out their rather alluring design, these Obi Worldphones are two things that no iPhone will ever be: Android and affordable. Just because you were the former CEO of Apple doesn’t mean you have to forever drink their Kool-aid, right?

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Microsoft delivers Windows 10 PC build 10532 to Insiders – Windows 10 Build 10532 is available as of August 27 to those in the Fast Ring. In this latest build, Microsoft has improved context menus to give them “a modern look and feel” in the latest test build. The company also has enabled sharing in the Windows Feedback app, so that testers can share feedback via Twitter, Facebook and other channels. Microsoft simultaneously is rolling out test Build 10532 of its Edge browser, which includes new canvas blend modes, pointer lock, asm.js on by default and more.

Security:

How ad blockers can improve your online safety and sanity –  Ad blockers – software or browser extensions that filter all HTML elements that are expected to contain ads – can do more than just hide annoying ads. They can optimize your online experience in multiple ways, including decreasing your risk for encountering malware. We lay out the advantages of using an ad blocker and give you a few recommendations on which ones we like.

Tor security concerns prompt largest dark market to suspend operations – Administrators of Agora, the largest online black marketplace operating on the Tor anonymity network, decided to temporarily suspend the website because of possible attacks based on recent methods of exposing Tor Hidden Services.

BitTorrent patches flaw that could amplify distributed denial-of-service attacks – BitTorrent fixed a vulnerability that would have allowed attackers to hijack BitTorrent applications used by hundreds of millions of users in order to amplify distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The flaw was disclosed earlier this month in a paper presented at the 9th USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies by four researchers from City University London, Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences in Friedberg, Germany and cloud networking firm PLUMgrid.

Report: Most ‘Women’ on Ashley Madison Were Actually Fake – There’s a good chance that most men on Ashley Madison never even had the opportunity to cheat. That’s because most women on the site were actually fake. According to an analysis of the Ashley Madison data dump from Gizmodo, just about 12,000 of the 5.5 million female profiles on the now-infamous adultery site belonged to actual, living breathing women.

Company News:

Facebook reaches 1-billion users milestone – This week Facebook reached a milestone, one that includes 1-billion people having used the social network in a single day. This isn’t an average number – as Mark Zuckerberg said in an announcement today – but it is rather important. Facebook has millions of users log in every day, and billions of people using the social network every month, but here for the first time in the website’s history 1-billion people used Facebook in a single day.

Life360 Acquires Chronos To Add “Quantified Self” Tracking To Its Family Locator App – Life360, the maker of mobile applications for iOS, Android and Windows Phone that help keep families connected, has acquired Chronos Mobile Technologies, a startup behind a number of mobile apps that passively collect data from users’ smartphones in order to highlight trends and connections between various behaviors. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Chronos had closed on a small seed round from Maven Ventures, Draper Associates and Major League Baseball earlier in 2015.

Report: ‘Dozens’ of Amazon Fire Phone Engineers Get the Axe – Lackluster Fire Phone sales have reportedly prompted Amazon to lay off “dozens” of engineers at Lab126, a division of the company that focuses on Amazon’s hardware development, according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s unclear exactly how many people were let go since they must sign non-disclosure agreements into order to get severance, the Journal said, but the division employs about 3,000 workers.

CenturyLink to deploy broadband to rural areas in 33 states – Telecom carrier CenturyLink will roll out broadband to 1.2 million U.S. homes and businesses in rural areas, using US $506 million from the Federal Communications Commission. The six-year project, expected to start early next year, covers rural areas in 33 states, including large parts of the Midwest, West and Southeast, in addition to other areas. States included in the deployment include Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Google rejects antitrust charges, digs in for a long fight – Google has responded to European Union regulators’ claims that its search results violate antitrust law, saying its search results are focused on “improving quality” and are not anti-competitive. “Google increases choice for European consumers and offers valuable opportunities for businesses of all sizes,” wrote company general counsel Kent Walker in a Google blog post. “Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents, and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive.” The blog post accompanies Google’s formal legal response that was filed today. European Union antitrust regulators formally charged Google with anticompetitive conduct in April.

Facebook Finally Cracks Down On Video Piracy – Facebook didn’t get to be one of the largest video streamers on the web without making a few enemies. Unfortunately, up to this point, a lot of those enemies were the people actually creating cool video content for the site. Today, Facebook is trying to rectify its poor management of controlling video piracy on its site and appease video creators who have been getting kind of pissed off at the site with a series of new updates.

SoundCloud faces lawsuit over alleged failure to pay royalties – Contentions regarding SoundCloud and the payment of royalties has been long-running, and now the audio streaming service is facing a lawsuit from Performing Rights Society for Music, more commonly referred to as PRS. The entity advised its members recently that it has sought for SoundCloud to “recognize their responsibilities” repeatedly; PRS states SoundCloud requires a license to operate in Europe and the United Kingdom. PRS went further and issued a press statement advising that it has “no choice” in the matter, and that after a half a decade of failed negotiations, it must proceed with a lawsuit.

Amazon Prime’s streaming video service to launch in Japan – With Netflix having already announced that they’re launching in Japan on September 2nd, Amazon has decided it’s not going to wait for its rival to gain a lead in the local market for streaming video services. The US internet shopping giant has announced it will be debuting its Prime Video service in Japan sometime this fall. Like Netflix’s service in the country, it’s still not clear what kind of programs will be available for streaming, however Amazon has promised the lineup will include popular US movies and TV shows, their award-winning originals, plus native Japanese content.

Games and Entertainment:

NFL without cable: A cord cutter’s guide for the 2015/2016 season – It’s getting a little easier to watch pro football online or over-the-air without an expensive cable TV bundle, but you’ll still have to make a few sacrifices.

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FIFA 16 demo lets you try women’s teams and more – Want to try out FIFA 16 before it hit store shelves? You’re in luck, as Electronic Arts has announced that a free demo for the upcoming professional soccer game will arrive starting September 8 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The FIFA 16 demo will let you try out the standard Kick-Off mode, as well as FIFA Ultimate Team Draft, FIFA Trainer, and new skill games. Featured in the demo are 10 high-profile teams from the around the world, as well as two women’s teams–including the World Cup-winning US Women’s National Team.

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EA Sports

The hidden cost of those ‘free’ gambling apps – Some of the most downloaded and highest-grossing video games in leading app stores use casino motifs for their designs, raising questions about the potential dangers of gambling apps.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is taking it to the Max…the IMAX – That’s correct, December 18 returns to a galaxy far, far away will come at you at the largest format possible for over a month, likely at a theater near you. A lot of high-profile movies get the IMAX treatment these days and since those tickets cost more for a premium experience — IMAX screens are an important part of increasing a movie’s box office take. The other gimmick used to convince you to see a film in theaters instead of waiting for it to stream is 3D, though thankfully The Force Awakens will spare us that.

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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate ships on PC a month after consoles – Publisher Ubisoft will release Assassin’s Creed Syndicate on PC a month after it launches on consoles, to help ensure the build is shipped without major bugs or glitches. The action adventure title, which follows the story of brother and sister assassins in Victorian London, is scheduled for launch on PC from November 19. That equates to about a month delay from the PS4 and Xbox One release date, which is October 23. Previously, Ubisoft had given the PC build a “Holiday 2015” release target.

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Divinity: Original Sin II preview: An ambitious sequel to one of the biggest, best RPGs of 2014 – When talking about last year’s excellent Divinity: Original Sin, I’m fond of saying, “Imagine the game you’d get if, instead of dying off in the early 2000s, the isometric CRPG genre had kept evolving through 2014.” Now imagine that the same company came back afterward and pitched a sequel twice the scope. That’s Divinity: Original Sin II.

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Watching Is the New Doing – YouTube Gaming makes it a breeze to find and watch an endless supply of gaming livestreams and videos, but it’s a bit rough around the edges.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The Psychology Of Insecurity – Why do we keep reading about a litany of breaches? Don’t cyber pros understand they are looking after our most sensitive personal data? Yes they do, but to understand their actions demands a more detailed examination of the psychology of security from the perspective of the security professional. It is time to recognize the psychology of our insecurity. We need a stronger mandate than regulation and the occasional public shaming of a clueless leader of an organization chartered with guarding vital information. We need infrastructure that is secure by design. There is no army of “cyber experts” big enough to pick through the haystack of alerts, trying to find the attack that actually penetrated the enterprise.

Pew report: Americans frown upon phone use in social settings – The widespread presence of mobile devices, namely smartphones, have brought about new issues in regards to etiquette, and though over the years a general shape about proper usage has formed, many still bicker about what is appropriate and what isn’t. Pew Research recently surveyed a bunch of Americans to find out their opinions on smartphone usage in public, and found that while most people are fine with phones being used when a person is in public, only a small percentage think it is okay to use the phone during a social gathering, whether you’re at the restaurant or just talking to someone.

25 Quotes That Take You Inside Albert Einstein’s Revolutionary Mind – In his lifetime, Einstein changed the world, describing the workings of reality better than anyone since Isaac Newton and revealing the capabilities of the atom bomb. In 1999, Time named him Person of the Century. Here are 25 of Einstein’s most telling quotes; each will take you inside the mind of the legend.

Iowa starts testing smartphone-based digital driver’s licenses – Over a year ago, we heard about the state of Iowa’s initiative to develop digital driver’s licenses that could eventually replace the plastic cards used through the US. The digital licenses would feature the same information as the physical versions — photo, address, date of birth, etc. — but be stored on a user’s smartphone. Well, Iowa has now announced that it’s beginning a test program, known as the Mobile Driver License (mDL), for a number of different situations, but limited to employees of the states’ Department of Transportation.

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HandUp, A Startup Focused On The Homeless, Launches Donation Gift Cards For Those Living On SF’s Streets – Since HandUp launched, the site has raised $886,000 so far for homeless people, mostly in San Francisco. On the site, moms are asking for funding for diapers. A veteran named Adam is raising a few thousand dollars for dental work. Another mother named Gladys, who lost both of her sons to unsolved homicides, is raising money to fix the van she lives in. Social workers and case managers at HandUp’s partner organizations make sure that clients are able to get what they asked for. But one of the most commonly requested features from donors was gift cards that people could give out directly on the street to people they pass by every day.

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Should police have the capability to take control of driverless cars? – There have already been plenty of ethical questions asked, like whether a driverless car should decide who lives or who dies during an accident scenario. One question often posed is whether a driverless vehicle could choose to ram a school bus full of kids or sacrifice the driverless vehicle’s occupants during a mishap. Now the Rand Corp. is thinking about how law enforcement officials should deal with driverless cars. A recent study (PDF) by the group ponders whether a cop should have the ability to remotely control a vehicle to pull it over.

Why We Look – We look because it’s there. We humans look towards violence in order to define it, to decide where we must run (or if we should stand and fight). We are fascinated by suffering. There is a cognitive bias towards the terrible. Many complain that there is not enough “happy” news. The problem is that there is happy news all around us, we just don’t notice. A baby smiling or someone offering someone else a spot on the bus doesn’t go viral because most humans experience little kindnesses and forget them. But we don’t forget violence.

Adobe says stop using ‘Photoshop’ as a generic term – When a company’s product so thoroughly corners a market that it becomes well-known even by those who have never used it, the company faces a problem: generic use of that product’s name. You’re likely to hear the term “dumpster” used generically, for example, as it is now a genericized trademark due to its common usage. Other trademarks have suffered the same fate — yo-yo, for example, and aspirin. Adobe doesn’t want its popular photo-editing software Photoshop to suffer the same fate, but it may be too late to stop it.

Something to think about:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”

–   Albert Einstein

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Associated Press sues FBI over fake news story – The Associated Press filed a lawsuit (PDF) this morning, demanding the FBI hand over information about its use of fake news stories. The case stems from a 2007 incident regarding a bomb threat at a school. The FBI created a fake news story with an Associated Press byline, then e-mailed it to a suspect to plant malware on his computer.

The AP sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI last year seeking documents related to the 2014 sting. It also seeks to know how many times the FBI has used such a ruse since 2000. The FBI responded to the AP saying it could take two years or more to gather the information requested. Unsatisfied with the response, the Associated Press has taken the matter to court.

An Electronic Frontier Foundation FOIA request on a different matter revealed the strategy in 2011, but it wasn’t made public until last year, when privacy researcher Chris Soghoian saw evidence of the operation in the documents and tweeted about it. That spurred both the AP and The Seattle Times to complain vocally about the FBI’s behavior.

“The FBI both misappropriated the trusted name of The Associated Press and created a situation where our credibility could have been undermined on a large scale,” AP General Counsel Karen Kaiser wrote in a letter to then-AG Eric Holder last year.

Germany trades citizens’ metadata for NSA’s top spy software – In order to obtain a copy of the NSA’s main XKeyscore software, whose existence was first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency agreed to hand over metadata of German citizens it spies on. According to documents seen by the German newspaper Die Zeit, after 18 months of negotiations, the US and Germany signed an agreement in April 2013 that would allow the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamtes für Verfassungsschutz—BfV) to obtain a copy of the NSA’s most important program and to adopt it for the analysis of data gathered in Germany.

This was a lower level of access compared to the non-US “Five Eyes” nations—the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand—which had direct access to the main XKeyscore system. In return for the software, the BfV would “to the maximum extent possible share all data relevant to NSA’s mission.” Interestingly, there is no indication in the Die Zeit story that the latest leak comes from Snowden, which suggests that someone else has made the BfV’s “internal documents” available.

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Screenshot: GodMode on a Windows 10 personal machine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

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

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Borderlands 2 running on Ubuntu Linux.

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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Post Modern Skateboard has no board.

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

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

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

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Something to think about:

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

–     Aldous Huxley

Downloads:

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

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

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

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

Universal Scanning Application

Automatic Color Detection

Import Images and PDF documents

Annotations

Image Adjustments and Enhancements

Various File Formats Saving

Batch Scanning With Separator Sheets Support

Quick-Scan Mode

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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Fallout 4 – Nov. 10

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–     Mae West

Downloads:

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

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

The latest version supports saving file as DOCX format.

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

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

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I respectfully submit the following as evidence:

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

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

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

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

(Drum roll, please …)

And the answer is … conservative prime ministers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This argument is nonsense for at least three different reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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