Tag Archives: Netflix

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–     Barack Obama

Downloads:

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

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

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

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

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

Program Features:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

√ Merge multiple similar rules or duplicate existing ones.

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

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

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

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

√ Protection to unauthorized uninstallation.

√ Possibility to restore previous settings at uninstallation.

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

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

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

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

ProBalance – Keep your PC responsive during high CPU loads!

Gaming Mode 2.0 with Bitsum Highest Performance power plan – new

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

SmartTrim – The first-ever intelligent RAM optimizer – new

Real-time CPU affinity and process priority optimization!

Automate and control process settings and power plans

Light-weight native code with negligible resource use

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

Unique system responsiveness metric to quantify your experience!

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

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – August 5, 2015

Trust no one: How caller ID spoofing has ruined the simple phone call;   Want Windows 10 to stop tracking you? Now there’s an app for that;  Use Cortana to control your Android phone from Windows 10;  Tor users: Do not expect anonymity and end-to-end security;  LibreOffice 5: The best office suite today won’t cost you a dime;  12 obscure new Windows 10 features that eliminate everyday hassles;  Mac backup basics;  YouTube rolls out an updated video player;  How to install Windows 10 on a Mac;  BitTorrent Sync apps updated with productivity features;  Yahoo’s ads spread malware via hackers, vulnerable Flash;  Netflix Surges 8% To All-Time High;  Xbox One will get a TV DVR feature next year;  14 Optical Illusions That Prove Your Brain Sucks;  Why it’s time to prepare for a world where machines can do your job.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Trust no one: How caller ID spoofing has ruined the simple phone call – Caller ID is easy to spoof and it’s leading to a host of real threats, from account recovery fraud to marketing scams to malicious pranks resulting in SWAT teams showing up at a victim’s door.

Windows 10 doesn’t offer much privacy by default: Here’s how to fix it – Windows 10, by default, has permission to report a huge amount of data back to Microsoft. By clicking through “Express Settings” during installation, you allow Windows 10 to gather up your contacts, calendar details, text and touch input, location data, and a whole lot more. The OS then sends it all back to Microsoft so that it can be used for personalisation and targeted ads. That isn’t to say you should be happy about this state of affairs, however. If you’d like to retain most of your privacy and keep your personal data on your PC, Windows 10 can be configured in that way. Just be warned that there are quite a few toggles that need to be turned off, and you’ll lose some functionality as well (Cortana won’t work, for example).

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Want Windows 10 to stop tracking you? Now there’s an app for that – Some have said Microsoft does not respect its users’ privacy by default; others believe some of the hype is overblown. Perhaps the biggest critique is that upon setup, the process could offer more granular options, and report less data back to the software giant. All of the tracking mechanisms can be switched off through the various options at setup, and after the fact through the settings. But now there’s a lightweight, open-source app that aims to claw back your privacy.

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Windows 10 Tip: Customizing the Start menu – With Windows 10, Microsoft is offering new ways to customize the Start menu and for those of you who are new to the OS, we have a guide to help you get started making Windows feel a bit more personal.

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Windows 10 ‘Service Release 1’ expected to roll out next month – SR1 will be a maintenance update, focusing on adding polish and stability to the OS, so don’t expect any new features. As more people continue to upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft will gather more telemetry from the OS in action, and will no doubt use that data to help inform development of future maintenance releases.

Use Cortana to control your Android phone from Windows 10 – Cortana is now almost everywhere, thanks to Windows 10 bringing Microsoft’s smart assistant desktops and tablets. While there have been indications that Cortana will indeed come to Android smartphones, that might still be a long time coming. What if you wanted Cortana to let you control your smartphone, or almost anything else, hands-free and only using your voice? Good thing, then, that Android already has all the needed tools to make that happen and, with a bit of trickery, rope in Cortana into it as well.

12 obscure new Windows 10 features that eliminate everyday hassles – The amount of new goodies in Windows 10 is almost mind-boggling. Even if you’ve read PCWorld’s insanely detailed Windows 10 review, our look at Windows 10’s best new features, and our mammoth guides to the operating system’s best tips and tricks and hidden features, you still haven’t seen everything Microsoft has to throw at you. Case in point: These 10 awesome new Windows 10 features that fly under the radar. Between these and virtual desktop support, Windows 10 renders a decent chunk of our list of free PC programs that ease headaches obsolete. Let’s dig in.

How to install Windows 10 on a Mac – If you haven’t already heard, Windows 10 is pretty great and worth installing on your PC. Apple fans won’t miss out either, since the new operating system can be installed on your Mac as well. Following these instructions will install Windows 10 on your Mac in a dual-boot configuration, meaning you’ll have the option to choose which operating system (Windows 10 or Mac OS) to use each time you turn on the computer.

Mac backup basics – A Mac backup plan doesn’t have to be complicated. The easier a plan is to set up and follow, the more likely you are to use it and have a current backup when disaster happens.

LibreOffice 5: The best office suite today won’t cost you a dime – I’ve used LibreOffice as my main office suite since it forked from OpenOffice five years ago. Now its latest edition, LibreOffice 5.0, is better than ever. And, in my book, that means it’s the best standalone office suite available in 2015.

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YouTube rolls out an updated video player – You may have already noticed this morning that YouTube has rolled out a revised version of its video player for desktop users. The new video player looks very nice and you can see it in the image here or when you play any of the embedded videos on SlashGear. YouTube didn’t bother to toss up a PR to tell us all of what it changed leaving us to glean the details for ourselves.

The $169 Cloudbook is Acer’s idea of a Windows 10 Chromebook – Announced a month ago, Acer has officially launched the Windows 10 equivalent of Google’s Chromebooks, coming in at jut $169 and running full Windows 10.

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Epson’s new printers will make ink cartridges a thing of the past – Printer drivers, paper jams, running out of ink, it’s all the worst (though the advent of wireless printing makes things marginally less horrible). Epson is trying to do its part to make things a little better with its new line of EcoTank printers — despite the ridiculous name, they have the smart idea of coming with huge tanks of ink that should last about two years before they need to be replaced. Epson claims that these printers have about the same capacity of 20 sets of ink cartridges; when the tanks run low, you can top them off with a bottle of ink. Basically, the EcoTank is the Droid Turbo of printers: can’t come up with better ink / battery technology? Just make things bigger. These printers don’t come cheap, either — the least expensive EcoTank printer starts at $379.

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BitTorrent Sync apps updated with productivity features – The Bittorrent Sync mobile apps have been updated with features needed for productivity, not just file sharing. Among the changes is the ability to directly edit files and then sync those changes on other devices where the item is stored. There’s also the option to create different file types that are saved straight into the Sync folder for sharing to other devices or users. The changes have arrived for mobile users on multiple platforms as of today.

Security:

Security experts create worm that infects Mac firmware and is nearly impossible to get rid of – Apple’s Macs and OS X have traditionally been viewed as a safer, more secure alternative to Windows, but researchers have proven that’s not the case. Security experts created a worm that attaches itself to a Mac’s firmware and remains there no matter what. Ahead of a presentation on this type of attack, researchers created a proof-of-concept worm that can stealthily burrow itself into a Mac’s firmware. It’s then impossible to remove without re-flashing the device’s firmware, which can be difficult and is only for those who really know what they’re doing.

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Yahoo’s ads spread malware via hackers, vulnerable Flash – Yahoo was recently hit by hackers who used its advertisements to deliver malware to an unspecified number of visitors on several of its own websites, it has been revealed. The malware campaign carried on for a full 7-day week before Yahoo, having been alerted by the researchers who discovered it, took it down. Yahoo says it is investigating the matter, and though it has not revealed how many people were affected, it said through a spokesperson that the initial reports “grossly misrepresented” the scale of the attack.

Tor users: Do not expect anonymity and end-to-end security – The Tor network is similar to a door lock: It works well, until a determined individual wants to get in. Get details on what Tor is and what it is not.

EFF developing stronger ‘Do Not Track’ standards for web browsers – While a “Do Not Track” setting has become standard in most browsers today, including Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, it’s commonly known that internet advertisers still have ways of tracking users. Advertisers profit from tracking the browsing history of users, and whether users have turned the Do Not Track setting on or not, many will ignore it altogether in their quest for data. That’s why the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has announced it’s building a stronger standard for the setting, aimed to protecting user privacy.

Battery Attributes Can Be Used To Track Web Users – A team of European security researchers has published a paper analyzing how the battery life of mobile devices could be used to track web browsing habits of Firefox users on Linux, using the HTML5 Battery Status API.

Company News:

Netflix Surges 8% To All-Time High On News Of New Price Target And Japan Launch Date – On a day the NASDAQ was down about 0.2 percent, Netflix hit a new all-time high during intra-day trading, hitting $122.78 and eventually closing at $121.00 per share, up 7.5 percent on the day. The video streaming service has seen its shares rise 143 percent so far in 2015. A stock split, Icahn cashing out, and and encouraging earnings reports have spurred investor’s attention in the company, as has its recently announced entry into Asian markets.

Netflix Announces Its New ‘Unlimited’ Maternity And Paternity Leave Program – A few hours after hitting its all-time stock price high today, Netflix has announced a new program for all employees. This is a pretty landmark perk, with the company showing both current and potential employees how much it cares. The company suggests parents can come back to the office either part or full time, then go back out as necessary during the first year. All paid of course. Yahoo doubled its maternity and paternity leave in 2013 to make it more competitive with Facebook and Google, and it has shown to be an important perk for all three companies. The talent is growing up.

Apple falls to third in China smartphone rankings, while Xiaomi vaults ahead – Xiaomi regained its position as China’s leading smartphone vendor in the second quarter, while Apple fell to third place despite increased sales of its iPhones. Xiaomi took 15.9% of the Chinese market in the April-to-June quarter, according to research firm Canalys, followed by Huawei, which had 15.7% and was the fastest growing vendor. It’s an impressive feat for both Xiaomi and Huawei. China is the world’s biggest smartphone market and competition is more fierce than ever, with Apple, Samsung and dozens of smaller local vendors all fighting for a bigger piece of the pie.

Accenture acquires US cybersecurity firm FusionX – Global consulting giant Accenture announced on Tuesday it has acquired FusionX, a Washington, DC-based cybersecurity firm. FusionX specializes in cyber attack simulation, threat modeling, cyber investigations and security risk advisory — services that Dublin-based Accenture plans to fold into its own suite of global security offerings.

Amazon responds to furor over limits on Prime sharing – Amazon has responded to an erupting controversy surrounding its popular Prime membership program, saying that a change it quietly made in regard to sharing accounts was meant to benefit customers, not restrict them.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games launches in November with 100 titles – Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra said that over 83 years’ worth of Xbox 360 games have been played on the Xbox One so far – and there will soon be plenty more titles to look forward to. He announced that all future Xbox 360 Games with Gold titles will have backward compatibility support on the newer console. Most importantly of all, he announced that Microsoft will make Xbox 360 backward compatibility available on the Xbox One this November for everyone – not just those on the preview program – with over 100 titles at launch.

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Xbox One will get a TV DVR feature next year – Microsoft announced the new feature on stage at Gamescom today, but the company is limiting it to only free-to-air TV. While the Xbox One can control and view content from cable boxes using a HDMI-in port, Microsoft has released digital TV tuners in Europe and the US to support free-to-air television. Mike Ybarra, head of platform engineering at Xbox, only mentioned recording free-to-air TV on stage, and Microsoft’s blog post reveals this is for free-to-air only. Microsoft is planning to enable the Xbox One TV DVR feature in 2016.

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Microsoft announces Halo World Championship with $1 million prize pool – We’ve seen plenty of Halo 5: Guardians in the lead-up to its October 27th release date. For Gamescom 2015, Microsoft focused on Halo’s history as an e-sport — and then took it a step further by announcing a World Championship with $1 million in prizes. That’s a significant boost from last month’s $150,000 pool but still a far cry from the $18 million Dota 2 International Championships. The focus will be on Halo 5’s more frenetic Arena multiplayer (instead of Warzone).

Off Topic (Sort of):

Stratolaunch aircraft will have a 385-foot wingspan – Paul Allen, Elon Musk and several other partners are teaming up to build an aircraft that will be the largest aircraft in the entire world when finished. The aircraft is dubbed Stratolaunch and if all goes well the partners plan to begin testing the aircraft in 2016. Stratolaunch is already under construction at the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. The partners plan to use the giant aircraft to perform in air launches of satellite-laden rockets. By launching the rockets in the air rather than from the ground, inclement weather wouldn’t delay a launch and the rockets would save fuel since they would already be at altitude and speed before the launch started.

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Google And MIT Researchers Demo An Algorithm That Lets You Take Clear Photos Through Reflections – In a paper they will present at Siggraph 2015 later this month, Tianfan Xue, Michael Rubinstein, Ce Liu and William T. Freeman show how you can take a short video sequence with your phone and then let their algorithms do their magic. Reflections, rain drops and fences mostly disappear from the final image. The algorithms looks at the different images from the video and then figure out what’s an obstruction in the foreground and what’s part of the background. Others have tried this before, but none of their results are as good as what these researcher came up with.

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14 Optical Illusions That Prove Your Brain Sucks – Our brains filter through a constant tsunami of stimuli and piece the important parts together to recreate what we know as “reality.” And they do all this in damn-near real-time—which is really impressive if you think about it. But here’s the thing: a big chunk of what we consider “reality” actually consists of our brains making guestimates. We know this because researchers have devised ways to consistently fool our brains into seeing things they’re not really seeing—even when our brains know that’s not what they’re seeing. These little reality busters are known as “optical illusions.”

Why it’s time to prepare for a world where machines can do your job – For decades movies have warned of intelligent machines taking our lives while ignoring a more plausible near-future threat: that they will take our jobs. A growing number of economists and artificial intelligence researchers are recommending that societies prepare for a world where large numbers of jobs are automated. If they’re right, the disruption to labour markets would be significant: the jobs identified as vulnerable are held by swathes of the population including supermarket cashiers and shop assistants, waiters, truck drivers and office admins. All of these tasks have a high probability of being carried out by software within “a decade or two”, according to a study by the Oxford Martin School & Faculty of Philosophy in the UK.

Watch: man surfs with dirt bike, rides across ocean – If you thought GoPro’s video of a man flying like a superhero down a mountain and through a split rock was impressive, DC’s new video will blow your mind. Titled ‘Pipe Dream’, the video shows the successful conclusion of one man’s two-year pursuit: to surf with his dirt bike. He took to the waves in full motocross getup, helmet and all. He also blasted his way over the ocean on the motor bike, dumbfounding a few people in the process. Full video after the jump!

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Dear sexists, this is what engineers actually look like – Technically Incorrect: In response to criticism of an ad featuring a female engineer, the Twitter hashtag #Ilooklikeanegineer attracts pictures of the sort of people that some wouldn’t expect.

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Sugar changes the chemical structure of tea and coffee – Some people just can’t handle their coffee or tea black. It’s too bitter, they say. So, they put a little sugar in to get rid of some of the bitter bite. However, researchers have found that the additive isn’t masking the flavor of these favorite morning beverages — it’s changing the chemistry of the caffeine within these drinks in a fundamental way.

Something to think about:

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

–       Isaac Asimov

Today’s Free Downloads:

Viber for desktop – Viber for Desktop lets you send free messages as well as make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country!

Free calls, text and picture sharing with anyone, anywhere!

    Free text, calling, photo messages and location-sharing with Viber users*

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Instantly integrates with your own contact list

Best-quality mobile calls using 3G or Wi-Fi

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Global spy system ECHELON confirmed at last – by leaked Snowden files – Special Report: Duncan Campbell has spent decades unmasking Britain’s super-secretive GCHQ, its spying programmes, and its cosy relationship with America’s NSA. Today, he retells his life’s work exposing the government’s over-reaching surveillance, and reveals documents from the leaked Snowden files confirming the history of the fearsome ECHELON intercept project. This story is also published simultaneously today by The Intercept, as is – at long last – Duncan’s Register Christmas Lecture from last year.

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India nixes online porn ban following intense public outrage on social media – That didn’t take long. The world’s oldest Internet hobby is resuming in India, days after the country virtually banned Internet porn. Indians took to Twitter and other social-media sites blasting this weekend’s anti-porn move, and the government has listened.

IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Tuesday that websites that don’t display child pornography may resume streaming, according to local media reports. On Saturday, the Indian government initially ordered Internet providers to filter about 857 websites said to render pornographic material in a bid to protect morality. The government said the sites’ content was “immoral and indecent,” sites including things like Pornhub and Playboy.

“A new notification will be issued shortly. The ban will be partially withdrawn. Sites that do not promote child porn will be unbanned,” Prasad told India Today TV.

Senate heads toward vote on CISA cyberthreat info sharing bill – The U.S. Senate could take a preliminary vote as soon as Wednesday on a controversial bill intended to encourage businesses to share cyberthreat information with each other and with government agencies, despite concerns that the legislation would allow the widespread sharing of personal customer data.

Senate leaders are attempting to iron out compromise language to address privacy concerns in the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), but if no compromise is reached Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will schedule a so-called cloture vote on Wednesday morning, said a spokesman for McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

A cloture vote would limit debate on the bill and move the Senate toward final passage, potentially before the Senate leaves for a four-week summer recess this weekend.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – July 13, 2015

This Woman Changed Her Name Just So She Could Log In to Facebook;  Ethiopian LGBT Activist Banned by Facebook Under Real Name Policy;  20 Google Tips for Search Gurus;  Playing violent video games makes women feel sexy, study finds;  How to manage your voice and audio activity on Google;  Top 5 reasons to get a dedicated reader app for Android or iOS;  Pluto.TV is the best cord-cutting app you’re not using;  Amazon tool aims to help you ‘fling’ shows onto Fire TV;  Baldur’s Gate is getting a full-sized expansion;  Nine of the best movies of all time, now streaming on Netflix;  Virtual Reality Porn And The Future Of Loneliness;  New Twitch for Android lets you watch all the streams from all the places;  11 Hilarious Old-School Instructional Videos;  Instant messaging apps could be monitored in the UK under new ‘Snoop’ law;  How to delete your Amazon browsing history.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

This Woman Changed Her Name Just So She Could Log In to Facebook – You might change your name as a spy. Or adopt a new moniker to elude the law. But would you change your name for Facebook? Jemma Rogers did. The holistic therapist from Lewisham, southeast London, changed her name to match her Facebook pseudonym, Jemmaroid Von Laalaa, after she was locked out of her account, according to the Telegraph.

Ethiopian LGBT Activist Banned by Facebook Under Real Name Policy – Facebook does not allow the use of fake names, even when pseudonyms are necessary to shield their owners from violence. The activist, who goes by the pseudonym HappyAddis, used the social network to create and administrate some of the most popular groups for gay Ethiopians, including Zega Matters, which has more than 1,000 members. The East African country considers homosexuality a crime and those convicted of same-sex relations can face 15 years in prison. For that reason, many LGBT citizens use an alias to interact with others online in order to avoid punishment from the authorities and anti-gay violence.

20 Google Tips for Search Gurus – While Google has grown to include numerous other pursuits, search remains the company’s core product (and its most profitable, as well). With a decade-and-a-half of refinement behind it, Google search has evolved into a complex and beautifully versatile technology. (And one that always works. Have you seen Google.com go down? That’s no easy accomplishment for the world’s most popular website.) While you probably use it just about every day, there may still be a lot you still don’t know about the old dependable Google search. Click through our slideshow and see how much more you can get from a simple search.

How to manage your voice and audio activity on Google – When you ask Google Now a question, or use text-to-speech to respond to someone, these recordings are being saved to your Google account. The recordings are only accessible by you, but may include some information you don’t feel comfortable having in the cloud — like a private conversation. On the other hand, you may just want to reference your recordings for a piece of information that you used your voice to look up or send to someone else. Whatever your preference, PhoneArena recently shared how you can play and delete your recordings, and how to disable them from being saved in the future:

Pluto.TV is the best cord-cutting app you’re not using – No disrespect to streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu, but sometimes finding the perfect video feels like too much effort. That’s why as a cord cutter I’ve been enjoying Pluto.TV, a free service that tries to mimic the cable box experience, only with Internet channels instead of traditional ones. Pluto’s website and apps offer dozens of channels, ranging from mainstream news to stand-up comedy to extreme sports, all strung together from web sources such as YouTube and Vimeo. There’s even an entire channel dedicated to cat videos (and another one for dogs). It has a desktop website and dedicated apps for Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, iOS, Android, and PC, and it also supports Chromecast.

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How to delete your Amazon browsing history – Whether you’re just price-checking on gifts for friends and family, or searching for items that you might be embarrassed to look at in public, you can do it all from your computer. Unfortunately, looking up these items will add them to your browsing history, and they can also appear on your related purchase suggestions. These could reveal a bit too much information if you share a computer or check Amazon on a lunch break from your desk at work. Here’s how to delete select items, or all of them, from your browsing history on Amazon:

Amazon tool aims to help you ‘fling’ shows onto Fire TV – Taking on competitors like Chromecast and Apple TV, Amazon releases “Fling,” a toolkit that lets developers build into their apps the ability to share media content with Amazon’s set-top box.

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Amazon’s Fling icon tosses content up to a Fire TV.

How to add virtual desktops to your PC without upgrading to Windows 10 – For years, both Mac and Linux users have taken advantage of virtual desktops that let you create multiple desktop work spaces on your PC. Finally, Microsoft is getting into the game by adding this feature into Windows 10. But the truth is, Windows has supported this capability for some time—Microsoft just never enabled it by default. So how do you get multiple desktops? All it takes is a small download from a Microsoft site.

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New Twitch for Android lets you watch all the streams from all the places – It’s an all-too-common dilemma in today’s modern world: What do you do when you’re watching a livestream on your phone but need to switch to a different app? Twitch thinks it has a solution by borrowing an idea from TV—picture-in-picture. The latest update to Twitch for Android features a new “Pop-Out Player” that lets you keep tabs on your livestreams while browsing the web, checking email, texting your friends, or otherwise go about your business on your phone. As you work, your Twitch livestream will continue to play in a small window in the corner of your phone’s screen.

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The Pop-Out Player in Twitch for Android.

No, Microsoft won’t cut off support for Windows 10 in four years – There’s a story currently going around that claims Windows 10 will ‘expire’ after four, or even two years and that users might have to pay for updates after that. That story is bogus and here’s why.

Lenovo releases a user guide for Windows 10 – With Windows 10 just around the corner, excitement is running high among fans. To help new users, Chinese multi-national computer technology company Lenovo has released a Windows 10 user guide named “Starting to use Windows 10” which discusses various topics relating to Microsoft’s new OS. This may sound trivial to Windows Insiders but are essential for beginners. You can download or view the Windows 10 starter guide by hitting up the source link below.

Microsoft’s Power BI visualization service will be generally available July 24 – The launch will bring a smorgasbord of new features, including new chart types, a refreshed desktop application and support for collaborating in groups on shared sets of data. Power BI was first released to the public as a beta earlier this year, and is designed to provide ordinary business users with powerful tools to visualize information from diverse data sets in live-updating dashboards. Power BI is built around three core components: datasets, which contain all of the raw information a user brings into Power BI; reports, which organize that data into a set of charts and graphs and dashboards, which are single live-updating pages that provide an at-a-glance look at specific visualizations based on those reports.

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Top 5 reasons to get a dedicated reader app for Android or iOS – As good as they are at loading web pages quickly and precisely on smaller screens, both Safari for iOS and Chrome for Android are terrible when it comes to loading a massive page-turner of an article—you know, that one you want to curl up with on a lazy Sunday. The solution: a dedicated reader app, and here’s five reasons why iPhone- and Android-toting bookworms shouldn’t be without one.

Rare breed: Linux Mint 17.2 offers desktop familiarity and responds to user wants – These days, the desktop OSes grabbing headlines have, for the most part, left the traditional desktop behind in favor of what’s often referred to as a “shell.” Typically, such an arrangement offers a search-based interface. In the Linux world, the GNOME project and Ubuntu’s Unity desktop interfaces both take this approach. Whether it’s driven by, in Ubuntu’s case, a vision of “convergence” between desktop and mobile or perhaps just the need for something new (which seems to be the case for GNOME 3.x), developers would have you believe that these mobile-friendly, search-based desktops are the future of, well, everything.

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The default Cinnamon desktop in Linux Mint 17.2.

Trying the iOS 9 public beta is easier than you think – Apple isn’t releasing iOS 9 until this fall, but if you can’t wait for a taste of the new iPhone and iPad software, the public beta holds an easy sneak-preview. Announced back at WWDC 2015, and launched this past week, the iOS 9 public beta software may not be quite final but it’s certainly ready for a broader audience to try out, not to mention an opportunity for iPhone users to flag up any final bugs to Apple. Trying the public beta needn’t be a headache, though, as long as you take a few precautions.

Wix Launches WixEd, A Free Online School For Website Design – DIY website creator Wix wants to make starting a career in web design as easy as it’s made building your own site. Today, the company is launching WixEd, a free online education program that teaches Wix users everything they need to know to launch their own website design business.

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Pro tip: Use Rufus to create a bootable USB drive to install (almost) any OS – After last week’s article, “Pro tip: How to create a bootable USB drive to install Windows on OS X,” I received feedback asking why anyone would install Windows on a Mac? This week’s entry deals with creating UFDs that allow you to install many other operating systems with the help of a utility called Rufus. But before diving into that, I have a question of my own. Why would you install any OS—besides OS X—on an Apple computer?

Ear Trumpet: A Windows 10 audio utility worth checking out – The utility breaks out the volume control for each app that is open, and does it all from a clean pop-up from the system tray. In my short time using it, I have had no major issues. One minor item that did occur on the first run was that it did not include apps that were opened before I installed Ear Trumpet, but after a quick restart of Spotify and Skype, they did show up in the list. Also, make sure you right click on the app and select ‘Show desktop apps’.

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Microsoft killing Photosynth and MSN apps, including Health & Fitness, Food & Drink – If Microsoft is killing MSN Health & Fitness, it’s not quite clear what this means for fitness tracking on Windows Phones.

Security:

Hacking Team’s Flash 0-day: Potent enough to infect actual Chrome user – The Adobe Flash zero-day exploit that spyware developer Hacking Team made available to customers worked successfully against even the advanced defenses found in Google’s Chrome browser, researchers said Friday. They also noted that it was used to infect computer users multiple times before it was leaked. The leak of the previously unknown exploit resulting from the devastating hack of Hacking Team last weekend and exploit kits available on the black market quickly added attack code to use the flaw. It allows attackers to surreptitiously install malware on targets’ computers, and there’s evidence that before last weekend’s breach, Hacking Team customers used the Flash zero-day against live targets.

After security disaster, OPM director resigns in disgrace – After it was revealed last month that more than four million federal personnel records had been stolen, members of Congress quickly demanded that the agency’s director Katherine Archuleta should be fired. In an e-mail, Archuleta wrote: “Today I informed the OPM workforce that I am stepping down as the leader of this remarkable agency and the remarkable people who work for it. This morning, I offered, and the President accepted, my resignation as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.”

How Google tries to keep ‘sneaky’ spam from your inbox – Determining which messages are spam and which are not is a neverending battle, especially since a message considered spam to one person could be legitimate to another. Messages from banks, airlines and other companies fall into this category. How does Google tell if a certain email is a sales promotion or an important notice informing you of information on your bank account or an upcoming flight? Spammers have also gotten smarter, using more tricks to better disguise junk mail so that automated spam filters have a tougher time figuring out how to tag it. So what new tools and techniques is Google using in the fight against spam?

Security researchers warn over 1 million users downloaded malicious Android games – Researchers at ESET have discovered that the Cowboy Adventure title, which until recently was up on the Google Play store, was stealing Facebook credentials and used them to spread itself to other users. The app did this by popping up a fake Facebook login screen in the middle of the game. If users were fooled, their credentials were sent via an HTTPS connection to a remote server. Another title, Jump Chess, was similarly infected by malicious code and used to gather social media credential from unsuspecting users.

Company News:

BlackBerry nabs two Android domain names – Following leaks and rumors, BlackBerry made its Android ambitions public yesterday, saying it has teamed up with Google to bring a more secure version of Android to the market. We’ve seen at least one device leak already reportedly showing a BlackBerry handset running Android. Whether that is legit is yet to be seen, but two more pieces of BlackBerry’s Android puzzle have surfaced. The company has nabbed two domain names, both of which revolve around the Android operating system.

Cisco will invest $1 billion to spur digital economic growth in UK – The investment will include a combination of job creation and education programs, startup and venture capital investments, and accelerated investing in cybersecurity solutions.

FTC exploring whether Apple’s 30% cut from music streaming apps is legal – Reuters reported on Friday that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking into whether it’s legal for Apple to continue taking a 30 percent cut from sales within rival music streaming apps now that the company has its own music streaming service. No formal investigation has been launched, but one anonymous source speaking to Reuters said that the FTC “has had meetings with multiple concerned parties” to discuss the issue. Two other anonymous sources said that the FTC is exploring antitrust concerns related to restrictions that Apple places on its rivals, including “a prohibition on advertising in the app that the company is on other platforms, a ban on marketing in the app that consumers can also buy directly from the company’s website, and a ban on linking to a company’s website from within the app.”

Reddit Co-Founder Steve Huffman In For Reddit CEO Job, Pao Out – We’d been hearing that Steve Huffman, a co-founder of Reddit who also co-founded flight and hotel search startup Hipmunk, was being considered for the CEO job at Reddit. Now that move is confirmed. Huffman’s appointment follows turmoil at Reddit following the firing of Victoria Taylor, a community manager that the Reddit community relied on, last week. Y Combinator’s Sam Altman also confirmed the move on Reddit.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata dies at 55 – Iwata passed away Saturday at age 55 after working 13 years as president, a period that saw the gaming industry transition from dedicated consoles and PCs to mobile devices, a move that Nintendo was slow to embrace. Nintendo said board members Genyo Takeda and Shigeru Miyamoto will continue to act as representative directors, a position required by Japanese corporate regulations. A new president has not been appointed.

Apple claims that 99 percent of iPhone users love their iPhone – Technically Incorrect: In one of two new ads, Apple celebrates the notion that almost every iPhone user loves that gadget. Is there actual evidence for this?

Games and Entertainment:

Nine of the best movies of all time, now streaming on Netflix and other services – In this, the last of our Now Streaming columns, our resident film critic names his all-time favorite movies.

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Stand by Me (Netflix)

Playing violent video games makes women feel sexy, study finds – The researchers found there was a correlation between violent video game play and a desire for sex, and this interest was across the board for male and female gamers. But here’s were the genders diverge. You see, there was no boost in “mate value” among men who played violent video games, but there was among the female participants. The results showed that women who play violent video games consider themselves a better catch, reporting that they enjoyed playing these kinds of games, because it made them feel more attractive, more sexy. So there you have it folks, violent video games give women a self-esteem boost. Now excuse me while I go play some Call of Duty.

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Baldur’s Gate is getting a full-sized expansion, 15 years later – Following a tease earlier this year, developer Beamdog has finally revealed the first details and footage of its upcoming Baldur’s Gate expansion-slash-sequel titled Siege of Dragonspear. Yes, an expansion for a game that originally released in 1998. PC gaming is a wonderful thing. From the announcement page: “Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear adds a new chapter to the Bhaalspawn saga. The events occurring between Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II are at last revealed in this 25-hour expansion pack for Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition.”

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Everything You Need to Know About the Revamped Destiny 2.0 – Destiny‘s next expansion, dubbed The Taken King, is launching on September 15. The popular shooter’s developer Bungie announced July 10 that the game will also be updated to version 2.0, bringing with it significant changes to many of the title’s core mechanics. In a blog post, Bungie creative director Luke Smith revealed that those changes will affect the game’s balance, progression, enemies, guns, quests and destinations.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

The big deal about IBM’s tiny chips – IBM is making a big deal of celebrating a tiny achievement, successfully producing a 7nm chip that could mean huge efficiency improvements in phones, laptops and more. Squeezing more than 20 billion transistors into a chip the size of a fingernail took figuring out new manufacturing processes and chewed through part of a $3bn investment IBM earmarked back in 2014, but it’s shaping up to be worth every cent. Big Blue predicts a power/performance increase of more than 50-percent from the smaller processors.

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Virtual Reality Porn And The Future Of Loneliness – Welcome to the very-near future of porn. A few weeks back, a sex toy company called Lovense and a virtual reality porn company called VirtualRealPorn announced their collaboration. Soon, VirtualRealPorn’s growing library of VR porn videos will coordinate with Lovense’s digitally-endowed vibrator and Fleshlight-esque Max toy to stimulate your sensitive bits in sync with virtual sex.

This woman’s epic meltdown shows how attached we are to our phones – There is nothing funny about this video. You might be tempted to think it’s hilarious. We’re all tempted to think we’re holier than other people at times. But here is a woman who cannot cope with the fact that her phone has died. She cannot cope to a degree that she screams in frustration. A lot. It was uploaded to Facebook by Akira Chan, who shared it publicly on Tuesday. It has already been viewed on Facebook more than 1 million times. And I defy anyone whose phone has suddenly died to claim that they haven’t felt like this woman, if not expressed themselves exactly as she did.

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The vanishing: What happened to Google Street View’s missing streets – As Google expands Street View into ever more exotic places, it appears to have a problem in many of the towns and cities where the service has been available for years. Look closely at any major city, especially the residential areas, and Street View is littered with hundreds, even thousands, of little gaps. And although it’s hard to be sure, the problem may be getting worse.

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This moving video claims gadgets are separating kids from nature – Technically Incorrect: An ad from General Mills examines the different things that kids do now, compared to what their parents and grandparents did. It just might make you weep. Or perhaps not.

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11 Hilarious Old-School Instructional Videos – Video is a much more efficient way to demonstrate the use of a modern interface. So it’s only natural that companies like Microsoft, Apple, and others would turn to the medium in order to get their point across. And, like many other things from the 80s and 90s, they look hilariously bad today. In this feature, we’ll fire up the old VCR and give you our picks for the goofiest old-school instructional videos.

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Hillary Clinton Plans To Campaign Against Uber’s Contractor Economy – Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will blast contractor-fueled companies for repressing middle-class wage growth in a speech tomorrow laying out her economic policies, according to an outline of the talk attained by Politico’s Michael Grunwald. Clinton plans to make raising middle class incomes a focus of her campaign, and will lay out her strategy at The New School in Manhattan on Monday. Along with globalization and automation, Clinton will peg the sharing economy as “conspiring against sustainable wage growth”, according to Politico. The report says “she will argue that policy choices have contributed to the problem, and that she can fix it.”

Something to think about:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

–       Steve Jobs

Today’s Free Downloads:

Wappalyzer for Chrome – Wappalyzer is a browser extension that uncovers the technologies used on websites. It detects content management systems, eCommerce platforms, web servers, JavaScript frameworks, analytic tools and many more.

Available for Firefox.

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Dashlane – Log in instantly, fill out any form, manage your passwords, and check out anywhere online without ever touching the keyboard, no matter where you are.

Dashlane is an award-winning service that revolutionizes the online experience by replacing the drudgery of everyday transactional processes with convenient, automated simplicity in other words, letting you get to the good stuff faster.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Instant messaging apps could be monitored in the UK under new ‘Snoop’ law – The UK government is in the process of finalizing the Snooper’s Charter that will bring all online communication of its citizens under the government’s scanner, and apps that do not adhere to it will likely face bans.

It was reported recently that the UK government has granted contracts to five companies to monitor the social media activity of its citizens, but things might become even worse in the near future if the proposed Communications Data Bill is passed as law.

In order to track terrorist activity and prevent threats, the UK government has proposed the Communications Data Bill – aka the Snooper’s Charter – that will make it mandatory for internet service providers to monitor the online activity of their users and keep logs of such data for 12 months. The law also recommends the monitoring of communication apps such as WhatsApp, iMessage and Snapchat among many others.

US government’s reported number of wiretaps don’t add up – The government published its latest Wiretap Report on July 1. The headline finding was that encryption wasn’t foiling federal and state law enforcement officials, despite a growing chorus of people suggesting that we’re all gonna die unless the tech sector builds backdoor access into their products to enable government access.

In all, the federal agency that oversees the courts reported to Congress that there were 3,554 wiretaps in 2014, about 1 percent less than the year prior. Of the total, only four were thwarted via encryption.

But the reported number of wiretaps by the Administrative Office of the US Courts (AO) simply doesn’t add up. That’s according to Albert Gidari, one of the nation’s top privacy lawyers. He says “there is a bigger story” that calls into question the AO’s accounting:

Since the Snowden revelations, more and more companies have started publishing “transparency reports” about the number and nature of government demands to access their users’ data. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint published data for 2014 earlier this year and T-Mobile published its first transparency report on the same day the AO released the Wiretap Report. In aggregate, the four companies state that they implemented 10,712 wiretaps, a threefold difference over the total number reported by the AO. Note that the 10,712 number is only for the four companies listed above and does not reflect wiretap orders received by other telephone carriers or online providers, so the discrepancy actually is larger.

How can that be? Even taking into account some accounting complexities, Gidari says, “the numbers are still off by more than twofold” in one scenario.

Here are EFF’s most influential cases from its first 25 years – On Friday, July 10, the Electronic Frontier Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary. The San Francisco-based group has been a stalwart of tech and legal advocacy since its founding and has played a key role in a number of seminal cases.

To celebrate, Ars interviewed Executive Director Cindy Cohn, who mentioned that, within the list of cases that the organization has worked on, she had a number of favorites.

Here’s a quick summary of those cases, in chronological order.

Case name: Bernstein v. Department of Justice

Filed: February 21, 1995

Highest court reached: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Decided: May 6, 1999

Result: Court ruled that computer code is speech, and is protected by the Constitution.

This was EFF’s first significant case, and it won big.

Back in 1995, Daniel Bernstein, then a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, wanted to be able to publish “Snuffle.” This program converted a one-way hash into a private-key encryption system. He wanted to publish not only the algorithm involved, but a mathematical paper explaining it, and the relevant source code. However, federal arms regulations forbade him from doing so. He and the EFF challenged this interpretation of the law on First Amendment grounds.

Does Abbott have the cyber-patience Australia needs? – Prime Minister Tony Abbott met with “business leaders” to discuss the cyber threat on Wednesday last week. “We’re working to protect Australians online, to provide confidence, as well as peace of mind, for households and business,” he reportedly said.

The meeting was hosted by the Business Council of Australia, and from the outside it had a usual-suspects feel about it — representatives of banks, the Australian Securities Exchange, Telstra, and Foxtel, those sorts of business leader. As the government develops its new cyber-security strategy, expected to be completed later this year, this is a routine consultation.

The Australian government already sees the internet as a threat — full of terrorists and criminals whose communications data must be retained, copyright infringers who must be stopped, and so on. The last thing we need is for the cybers to be turned up to 11 and made part of the inflated national security rhetoric.

China makes internet shut-downs official with new security law – China is able to shut off internet access during major ‘social security incidents’ and has granted its Cyberspace Administration agency wider decision making powers under a draft law published this month.

The draft also appears to require critical infrastructure organisations including foreign entities to store “important” data on Chinese soil without specific permission to host offshore.

The Cyberspace Administration, headed by director Lu Wei, has a leading role in planning and coordinating information security policy efforts, analysts say .

The details of the new security approach are revealed in an English translation of the draft posted online.

Arizona makes deal with ACLU, won’t enforce bad law on “revenge porn” – A lawsuit filed in September by the American Civil Liberties Union, along with a group of booksellers and publishers, has put a stop to Arizona’s “revenge porn” law.

The lawsuit argued that the Arizona “revenge porn” law went too far, and violated the First Amendment. The statute widely banned the posting of nude images without consent, but had no requirement that the person distributing the images be intending to harm the person portrayed. The ACLU and the Media Coalition, argued that could have led to criminal charges against artistic photographers, or newsworthy or historic photographs.

In their complaint, ACLU lawyers said the law could get newspapers or academics in trouble for showing images with political and historical significance, like images of Abu Ghraib prisoners, or a photo like the iconic 1972 “Napalm Girl” photo.

The Arizona Attorney General (AG) agreed to a temporary stay of the case in November. In January, the 2015 legislative session began, and lawmakers considered a possible fix to the law’s language. However, the legislature adjourned in April without passing the change.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 8, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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Image: Square Enix

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–     Paula Poundstone

Today’s Free Downloads:

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

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

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

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

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

make your PC slower and cluttered

reduces free space available 

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

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

PrivaZer allows you to:

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

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

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

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 24, 2015

The undercover war on your internet secrets;  7 things to consider before canceling cable;  15 Amazing Apps That Will Ruin Your Life;   Avoid message trackers in Gmail;  Your Smartphone Could be Tracking You Every 3 Minutes;  Windows Store apps to cost more starting April;  How to run Windows software in Linux;  Instagram Launches Layout, Its Own Photo Collage App;  The 10 Best External Hard Drives;  Netflix Goes Live In Australia And New Zealand;  All four major browsers take a stomping at Pwn2Own;  Who Cares If Antivirus Works, As Long As It’s Low-Key;  Colorado 12-Year-Old Tries to Kill Mom for Taking iPhone;  Google Chairman says Glass ‘fundamental’ for Google;  First lawsuits against FCC’s net neutrality are filed;  Tech-savvy NYPD cop allegedly hacked NYPD computer and FBI database to run a con;  Tor Browser Bundle (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The undercover war on your internet secrets: How online surveillance cracked our trust in the web – How the battle over privacy technologies could define the future of the web. This TechRepublic cover story explains the strange history and the serious consequences of the fight over encryption.

15 Amazing Apps That Will Ruin Your Life – There are some “productivity” apps that will suck you in and never let you go. Day after day, you’ll return to them, enjoy them, and then wonder “Where the hell did the time go?” They’re the empty calories of the app world. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth downloading; just beware that these apps (like these Websites to Avoid) don’t suck … but they will suck time.

Your Smartphone Could be Tracking You Every 3 Minutes, Study Says – Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study where they asked 23 people to use their Android smartphones normally, and tracked location data requests from each device with specially designed software, the Wall Street Journal reports. The researchers found that many popular Android apps tracked their users an average 6,200 times per participant over a two-week period, or about every three minutes. Some of the apps came pre-installed on the phone, and were not as easily deleted, the WSJ reports.

7 things to consider before canceling cable – One of the biggest problems with traditional cable subscriptions is bundling — you have no choice but to pay for dozens of channels you never watch just to get the few you want. The ideal alternative would allow you to pick and choose just the channels you want. The reality is that cutting cable does not eliminate bundling. Whether you switch to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sling TV or any other option, you’ll still pay for shows that go unwatched.

YouTube Autoplay rolls out, here’s how to turn it off – Websites get more traffic and, in some cases, more money, the longer you stay on their site and the more you get hooked on their content. On YouTube, that equates to watching more and more videos without having to stray away from the page. And what better way to do that than by enticing you video after video after video. That’s right, YouTube’s once experimental Autoplay feature is now rolling out to all users to keep you from getting bored, or escaping. Fortunately, it’s easy to turn it off.

Chrome: Avoid message trackers in Gmail –  As Ghacks.net points out, Gmail does try to help you avoid trackers, but it doesn’t catch them all. Instead, a tracker-blocking extension, and a few adjustments to the way you read Gmail messages, are the most convenient methods to dodge many of the available tracker services. Here’s how to get started:

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PixelBlock running in Gmail. Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET

The 10 Best External Hard Drives – For under $100, you can add a terabyte or more of data storage to your laptop desktop, or tablet. But which to choose? There’s a lot consider—desktop- or laptop-class, traditional spinning or SSD are only a couple of factors—so finding the perfect hard drive for your use can seem overwhelming. That’s where we come in. We narrow down your choices to the 10 best external hard drives on the market.

10 obscure, highly specialized browsers that will make you forget about Chrome, Firefox, and IE – There’s a wide world of alternative browsers out there, all fighting for your attention with unique features and specializations in gaming, privacy, media consumption, and more. There’s even something to appeal to old-school Internet users. If you’re looking to shake up your web surfing experience, here’s a look at 10 great browsers not named Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer.

Windows Store apps to cost more starting April – Due to the strengthening of the US dollar, Microsoft has updated its pricing tiers for Windows Store apps and in-app purchases. Unfortunately this means prices in other currencies will be hiked.

Windows 10 might not peacefully coexist with other OS – It seems that Microsoft is developing a pattern lately. After a flood of good news comes the fine print and some sad, if not worrying, follow ups. First it was the speculation that the lure of a free Windows 10 upgrade for pirated copies of Windows might not be so sweet after all. Now it seems that Microsoft will potentially ostracize another group of computer users: those who dual boot operating systems. Slides from its presentation in China seem to hint that Microsoft won’t block OEM’s from prohibiting users from disabling secure boot.

Windows System Restore: You can adjust this utility to save your PC image more often – Just about any new problem that makes Windows behave badly can be fixed by opening Windows’ System Restore and returning to an earlier time. But this only works if you have a restore point that was created before the unfortunate changes. So you need to take control of how often Windows creates these points.

How to run Windows software in Linux: Everything you need to know – Linux is more capable than ever. With over 1000 Linux games available on Steam and a general shift towards more web-based desktop software, there’s less need for Windows than ever. After all, you can now watch Netflix on Linux without any hacks, and you can even use Microsoft Office on Linux—a web-based version of it, at least. But, as most dedicated Linux desktop users will eventually discover, there comes a time when you just need to run a particular piece of Windows software on your Linux PC. There are quite a few ways to do so. Here’s what you need to know.

Instagram Launches Layout, Its Own Photo Collage App – Instagram today announced the debut of a new application called Layout, the company’s next standalone creation tool outside of its flagship photo-sharing application. With Layout, Instagram users will be able to quickly build collages using their mobile photos, which they can then choose to share to Instagram, Facebook, or elsewhere.

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Netflix Goes Live In Australia And New Zealand, Its First Launches In Asia Pacific – Netflix spoke of aggressive international expansion ambitions in January, and a major step towards its two-year globalization plan was taken today when its video-on-demand service went live in Australia and New Zealand. Customers in Oceania can pay A$8.99 (US$7) per month for standard access to its catalog. HD and 4K quality streams are charged at A$11.99 (US$9.40) and A$14.99 ($11.77) respectively. Those in Australia will suffer from a somewhat streamlined selection of content, initially at least.

Twitter quietly introduces abusive language filter – Twitter has been busy trying to stem the flood of abusive users and trolls, the latter of which it has been given a lot of grief over in recent times. Among its different efforts is a new one the social network has rolled out without much fanfare: a filtering tool that allows verified users in particular to filter out tweets containing abusive language. Verified users have been reporting seeing it roll out, and it appears that it is only available for the iOS mobile app at this time, though it’ll likely be appearing elsewhere in the future.

Adobe builds new features straight into Microsoft’s browser – A partnership advances Adobe’s technology ideas while making Microsoft’s Project Spartan more competitive. For the rest of us, expect a more graphically rich Web.

Security:

All four major browsers take a stomping at Pwn2Own hacking competition – The annual Pwn2Own hacking competition wrapped up its 2015 event in Vancouver with another banner year, paying $442,000 for 21 critical bugs in all four major browsers, as well as Windows, Adobe Flash, and Adobe Reader. Despite huge leaps in secure code, nothing is immune when hackers are motivated. In all, this year’s Pwn2Own unearthed five bugs in Windows, four bugs in IE 11, three bugs in Mozilla Firefox, three bugs in Reader, three bugs in Flash, two bugs in Safari, and one bug in Chrome. To qualify, winning bugs must be previously unknown and have the ability to break through anti-exploit defenses.

Google warns of unauthorized TLS certificates trusted by almost all OSes – In the latest security lapse involving the Internet’s widely used encryption system, Google said unauthorized digital certificates have been issued for several of its domains and warned misissued credentials may be impersonating other unnamed sites as well. The bogus transport layer security certificates are trusted by all major operating systems and browsers, although a fall-back mechanism known as public key pinning prevented the Chrome and Firefox browsers from accepting those that vouched for the authenticity of Google properties, Google security engineer Adam Langley wrote in a blog post published Monday.

Twitch Resets All User Passwords After Suffering Data Breach – Twitch, the immensely popular livestreaming service for gamers that was acquired last year by Amazon in a nearly $1 billion deal, confirmed today that it has suffered a security breach that may have resulted in unauthorized access to a number of user accounts. The company is now forcing all of its users to change their passwords.

Hacking bios chips isn’t just the nsa’s domain anymore – THE ABILITY TO hack the BIOS chip at the heart of every computer is no longer reserved for the NSA and other three-letter agencies. Millions of machines contain basic BIOS vulnerabilities that let anyone with moderately sophisticated hacking skills compromise and control a system surreptitiously, according to two researchers. The revelation comes two years after a catalogue of NSA spy tools leaked to journalists in Germany surprised everyone with its talk about the NSA’s efforts to infect BIOS firmware with malicious implants.

New malware program PoSeidon targets point-of-sale systems – The new malware program has been dubbed PoSeidon by researchers from Cisco’s Security Solutions (CSS) team and, like most point-of-sale Trojans, it scans the RAM of infected terminals for unencrypted strings that match credit card information — a technique known as memory scraping. This sensitive information is available in plain text in the memory of a PoS system while it’s being processed by the specialized merchant software running on the terminal.

Wind turbine blown away by control system vulnerability – It had to happen, we suppose: since even a utility-grade wind turbine might ship with a handy Webby control interface, someone was bound to do it badly. That’s what’s emerged in a new ICS-CERT advisory: CVE-2015-0985 details how turbines from US manufacturer XZERES allow the user name and password can be retrieved from the company’s 442 SR turbine. As the advisory notes, “This exploit can cause a loss of power for all attached systems”.

Tech-savvy NYPD cop allegedly hacked NYPD computer and FBI database to run a con – An NYPD auxiliary cop was busted for allegedly installing a hidden camera in a cable TV box, so he could check if the coast was clear, before remotely accessing a police computer and using off-duty cops’ usernames and passwords to log into databases. He supposedly ran 6,400 queries, acting as an ambulance-chasing attorney when contacting accident victims. Yehuda Katz, the alleged con man taking kickbacks, was arrested last week for using “his position as an auxiliary officer to hack into restricted computers and networks in order to obtain the personal information of thousands of citizens in a scheme to enrich himself through fraud.”

Who Cares If Antivirus Works, As Long As It’s Low-Key – Rather than blindly run the same tests year after year, the researchers at AV-Comparatives regularly survey consumers to make sure their tests hit the criteria that matter. Interestingly, low performance impact was more important to users than thorough malware cleanup.

Cisco small business phones open to remote eavesdropping, calling – An authentication flaw allows attackers to listed to audio streams and make calls from Cisco SPA 300 and 500 IP phones

Company News:

US judge orders seizure of foreign domains owned by Chinese company – A federal judge in New York has ordered dozens of global domains owned by the Chinese company Fengtao Software to be seized, for its social media accounts to be blocked, and for payment processors to cut off their services to the company. It’s not clear how he hopes to enforce that ruling: even if domain registrars in Japan and Germany are willing to implement the order, it’s hard to see one in China helping a US judge shut down a Chinese company.

Microsoft Signs 11 Agreements With OEMs To Bring Office To More Android Handsets And Tablets – Microsoft has broadened a previously announced agreement with Samsung to preinstall its software on the latter firm’s hardware it announced today, and landed nearly a dozen separate, similar arrangements with other OEMs including Dell. As a company, Microsoft is pursuing an increasingly cross-platform software strategy, one in which it is content to ensure that its applications are suited for rival platforms, such as Android.

Google Chairman says Glass ‘fundamental’ for Google – Is Google Glass dead, or do we just wish it were? When Google demolished the ‘Explorer program’ for Google Glass, they quickly seated Glass under the watchful eye of Tony Fadell, who heads up Google’s de facto hardware arm, Nest. Over time, various talking heads have said Glass wasn’t gone, just regrouping. The latest to chime in is former Google CEO and current Chairman Eric Schmidt, who calls Glass “fundamental” for Google, and says Fadell and his team are going to “make it ready for users”.

Games and Entertainment:

iOS Game Mr Jump Leaps To 5M Downloads After Four Days On The App Store – The game from France’s 1Button has already racked up 5 million downloads in just four days, and its simple in-app purchase and ad-based revenue model is earning its developers five-figure revenues on a daily basis, without having to resort to “pay-to-win” mechanics. The game keeps play simple – it’s a one-button platform title, meaning all a user has to do is tap the screen and the appropriate point. A tap results in a jump, with the length and height of the jump variable based on how long you tap. The player character, Mr Jump, moves of his own accord from left to right across a scrolling, simply colored blocky environment, and your goal is to avoid the various spikes, pitfalls and other dangers that impede his progress.

Battlefield Hardline review: an odd, cops-and-robbers facade – Like its predecessors, Hardline is larger, slower, and much more open than most of the multiplayer shooters that follow in the footsteps of Modern Warfare’s success. If you haven’t played Battlefield in a while (or outright skipped Battlefield 4 thanks to the horror stories about glitches and server issues), it might be an adjustment. It’s the kind of game where running around like an idiot without checking your environment will get you killed incredibly quickly. Snipers line every fire escape and rooftop, ready to pick you off unseen from 100 meters out if you’re not careful. Helicopters are shot down seconds after takeoff. If you’re not paying attention to your minimap, sweeping the horizon for targets, and ducking from cover to cover, it’s a safe bet you’ll be gunned down almost immediately. In short: It’s Battlefield.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

FTC opens new office to protect you from the Internet of Things – The FTC says it’ll be broadening its scope with the launch of a new Office of Technology Research and Investigation, described by the agency as “the next generation in consumer protection.” In 2015, we’re faced with the growing Internet of Things, cars that get faster with software updates, and the expanding smart home. The FTC thinks now’s the time to widen its net so that it may protect consumer interest across every facet of technology. Specifically, the OTRI will keep an eye on “privacy, data security, connected cars, smart homes, algorithmic transparency, emerging payment methods, big data, and the Internet of Things,” according to the agency.

First lawsuits against FCC’s net neutrality are filed – The FCC just announced its ruling on net neutrality last month, and lawsuits are hitting the agency right off the bat. The FCC declared that the Internet is a utility, which allows the government to regulate it. As such, the FCC created net neutrality rules which treat all web traffic equally. Well, no one likes being told what to do, especially by the government. The telecom industry is up in arms over the FCC’s net neutrality ruling, and now the lawsuits are beginning to trickle in. These lawsuits are part of an industry-wide effort to overturn what private companies believe are the FCC’s unlawful regulations.

Boeing scores patent for blast-inhibiting force fields – Our the-stuff-of-fiction future is becoming ever brighter, and newest to flesh it out is a new patent scored by Boeing, which has apparently set its sights on force fields. The patent details a technology that would create force fields somewhat similar to what we’ve seen in movies like Star Wars, though they won’t work quite the same. Rather than taking the impacts from objects, they’ll absorb or otherwise inhibit the shockwaves that result from a blast, helping keep the blast contained while protecting nearby people and structures from the damage that could result.

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Mercedes to release 10 new plug-in hybrids by 2017 – Luxury auto maker Mercedes-Benz has just announced that it will be greatly expanding its lineup of plug-in hybrid models by launching 10 new vehicles between now and 2017. As of now only two models are confirmed for sale in the U.S., but with an aggressive worldwide release of 10 hybrids, it means Mercedes will average a new model every four months. To solidify the company’s investment in hybrids, Mercedes is simplifying their branding, dropping the “Plug-in Hybrid” suffix to just add “e” to end of model names.

Colorado 12-Year-Old Tries to Kill Mom for Taking iPhone – According to reports, a 12-year-old from Boulder, Colorado was arrested on Friday following accusations that she attempted to poison her mother for taking away the girl’s iPhone. These kinds of things tend to go beyond warranting a trip to time out, or a further reduction in privileges. As you might expect, the mother contacted police, told them the deal, and investigators ultimately took the girl into custody. Charges haven’t been filed just yet, though the 12-year-old is currently being held in a juvenile detention facility.

Kaspersky, Bloomberg Spar Over KGB Allegations – Eugene Kaspersky, head of Russia-based security software supplier Kaspersky Lab, is fighting allegations that his company has “close ties” to Russian spies. Last week, Bloomberg Business published an article accusing Kaspersky Lab of excluding Russia from reports examining electronic espionage by the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

Something to think about:

“I am the only one who can make America truly great again”

–    Donald Trump

Today’s Free Downloads:

Audacity – Audacity is a free, easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder. The interface is translated into many languages.

You can use Audacity to:

Record live audio.

Record computer playback on any Windows Vista or later machine.

Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.

Edit WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis sound files.

Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.

Change the speed or pitch of a recording.

And more!

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Tor Browser Bundle – Protect your privacy. Defend yourself against network surveillance and traffic analysis.

The Tor software 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, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.

The Tor Browser Bundle lets you use Tor on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive, comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity, and is self-contained.

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Screen shots from a personal system

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Documents Reveal Canada’s Secret Hacking Tactics – Canada’s electronic surveillance agency has secretly developed an arsenal of cyberweapons capable of stealing data and destroying adversaries’ infrastructure, according to newly revealed classified documents.

Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, has also covertly hacked into computers across the world to gather intelligence, breaking into networks in Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and North Africa, the documents show.

The revelations, reported Monday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, shine a light for the first time on how Canada has adopted aggressive tactics to attack, sabotage and infiltrate targeted computer systems.

The latest disclosures come as the Canadian government debates whether to hand over more powers to its spies to disrupt threats as part of the controversial anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51.

New Zealand Spied on WTO Director Candidates – New Zealand launched a covert surveillance operation targeting candidates vying to be director general of the World Trade Organization, a top-secret document reveals.

In the period leading up to the May 2013 appointment, the country’s electronic eavesdropping agency programmed an Internet spying system to intercept emails about a list of high-profile candidates from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico and South Korea.

New Zealand’s trade minister, Tim Groser, was one of nine candidates in contention for the position at the WTO, a powerful international organization based in Geneva, Switzerland that negotiates trade agreements between nations. The surveillance operation, carried out by Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, appears to have been part of a secret effort to help Groser win the job.

Groser ultimately failed to get the position.

A top-secret document obtained by The Intercept and the New Zealand Herald reveals how GCSB used the XKEYSCORE Internet surveillance system to collect communications about the WTO director general candidates.

India’s Supreme Court Strikes Down Controversial Internet Censorship Law – Today is a good day for freedom of speech in India. The country’s Supreme Court struck down an ambiguous law that could be used to imprison citizens for content that they post online.

NDTV reports that Section 66A of the Information Technology Act was declared unconstitutional at a session held this morning. The court added that the controversial law, which first came into existence in 2000, is “vague in its entirety” and in violation of existing free speech laws.

Snowden should be allowed a public interest defense, say European lawmakers – A group of European lawmakers has called on the US government (PDF) to allow the whistleblower Edward Snowden to return to the US from Russia “without fear of criminal prosecution under conditions that would not allow him to raise the public interest defense.” A post on the Open Society Foundations blog explains that Snowden faces up to 30 years of imprisonment under the US Espionage Act of 1917, which does not allow a public interest defense to avoid or mitigate any penalties.

The call comes in a resolution by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly is made up of 318 representatives from the national parliaments of the Council of Europe’s members. This is significant, Open Society Foundations says, since it “marks the first time that any inter-governmental body has called on the United States not to prosecute Snowden unless he is afforded the opportunity to raise a public interest defense.”

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 20, 2015

FTC report: Google caused ‘real harm to consumers’;  Web Pegged as Bad for Morals by Surfers in Emerging Countries;  Signature antivirus’ dirty little secret;  Snowden: IT workers are now target of spies;  Amazon gives you 34 paid Android apps and games, all free;  Save form data as you type it in Chrome, Firefox with Lazarus;  Windows 10 on pirated versions won’t get you a valid license;  Apple TV revisited: 4 reasons to buy it, 4 reasons to skip it;  Fix Netflix’s User Interface With God Mode;  FAA Grants Amazon Permission To Test Drone Deliveries;  PlayStation Vue: here’s what you need to know;  The iPhone’s best new puzzle game is about NSA surveillance;  Will robots take our jobs and overpower us?  The CIA Just Declassified the Document That Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion;  Restore Point Creator  (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

FTC report: Google caused ‘real harm to consumers’ – A 160 page FTC report from a couple years ago has made the light of day through an open-records request, and in it we see Google held in a harsh, often damning light. The report reveals that it was recommended that the FTC sue Google over three of the Internet giant’s practices, something that would have — had it gone through — ended up being one of the biggest antitrust cases since the similar suit against Microsoft in the 90s. Among other things, the report says Google both has and will harm consumers and innovation with some of its actions.

Web Pegged as Bad for Morals by Surfers in Emerging Countries – As the Internet lays down roots across the globe, people in emerging countries are welcoming the Web’s positive impacts, but are just as wary of what they perceive as its negative influence on morals. According to a new Pew Research Center study, a majority of folks across 32 developing nations count the Web as beneficial for education, personal relationships, and the economy. When it comes to politics and morality, however, the online maelstrom is viewed by many as a negative influence.

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Amazon gives you 34 paid Android apps and games, all free, in birthday blowout – Amazon is at it again, this time gifting you $105 worth of free Android apps and games. The fire sale is to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Amazon Appstore, it’s rival to Google Play. While the apps work on Amazon’s Fire tablets, they can also be used on most Android devices, as long as you install the Amazon Appstore on your phone or tablet. The sale is good through March 21. Downloading any of these offerings also enters you into a contest to win a $25,000 shopping spree from Amazon. Here’s the full list of all the apps and games available, including their original price.

Upgrading to Windows 10 on pirated versions won’t get you a valid license -Yesterday Microsoft announced plans to allow pirated versions of Windows to upgrade to Windows 10 once the new operating system launches. Now the company has clarified some of its statements and the picture is a bit less rosy. Unfortunately, the company had scaled back a bit on its plans saying that the free upgrade, though available, won’t actually change the license state of a user’s OS. In plain speak this means that if you were running a pirated copy of Windows, you’ll still be running a pirated copy even after upgrading to Windows 10. This move seems counterproductive though, or rather self-sabotaging.

Save form data as you type it in Chrome, Firefox with Lazarus – If you’re filling out your car insurance quote form, writing a comment on a blog or filling in payment details for food delivery, it’s annoying to lose what you’ve already entered because of a server error or accidental mouse click. For situations like these, there’s an extension for Chrome called Lazarus. This extension will save the data you type into those pesky textboxes, and will allow you to re-add it with just a couple of clicks. It’s not new, but you may wonder how you’ve had the patience to continue filling out online forms without it. Here’s how to get started:

Find out where to flee zombies with awesome online simulator – Choose a spot on the map where the first zombie hits America, adjust your parameters and watch the infection grow.

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Almost 223 hours into a zombie outbreak that started in the Southeast. Time to head to Alaska! Screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

After hitting Raspberry Pi 2, Windows 10 will head to Qualcomm’s board – Raspberry Pi 2 has been the only announced option for enthusiasts looking to make electronics using Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10, but Qualcomm is now offering its DragonBoard 410c as an alternative. The credit card-size DragonBoard 410c is a board computer that Qualcomm has priced at around US$75, which is double that of the $35 Raspberry Pi 2. But with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 64-bit ARM CPUs, the Qualcomm board has a blend of horsepower, graphics and location-tracking capabilities not found on other board computers.

Here’s the hardware that will power Windows-based robots and connected homes – Microsoft has big plans for spreading Windows beyond phones, tablets, and PCs, and it’s just started talking about the hardware options. In a blog post, Microsoft revealed a few different chipsets that will support Windows 10 IoT, an initiative to bring Windows to new product categories such as connected homes, wearables, robots, and DIY computing kits. As Microsoft has already promised , the “Internet of Things” version of Windows will be free for “Makers” and device builders.

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Fix Netflix’s User Interface With God Mode – Ever spend more time looking for something to watch on Netflix than actually watching something on Netflix? That’s because of the site’s addiction to brevity. Titles are hidden by sliding bars that requires clicking to reveal more titles. This bookmarklet fixes the issue. It’s called God Mode and I love it. Just pop the bookmarklet into your bookmark bar and load Netflix. Once logged in, click the bookmark button to expand all the sliding bars into grids of movies. It’s not as pretty, but damn is easier to use.

Apple is ignoring a major problem with MacBook screen stains – You may remember back in late 2012, MacBook owners were reporting ghosting problems on their Retina Displays. However, Apple didn’t class that type of ghosting as worthy of repair much to the frustration of users who’d spent thousands purchasing the laptops. Well it’s happening again, but this time instead of ghosting, the display on some MacBooks can develop severe staining. And guess what? Apple is claiming this counts as cosmetic damage and therefore not covered under warranty. The problem for Apple is the fact this isn’t a problem only a handful of MacBook owners are experiencing. As of today, 443 people have complained, and a website has been created called Staingate to highlight the issue.

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Don’t Follow The Leader: These Phones and Carriers Could Make You Happier – If you’re on a great, big wireless carrier, with the same phone that millions of other people have, you need to look at switching. Tiny companies you’ve never heard of may be able to satisfy you in a way the big guys just can’t. That’s the message of our Reader’s Choice survey this year, and it’s empowering. It’s empowering because the little guys are competition, and when they compete, they drag everyone forward. They improve options and lower prices for everyone. Check them out. Even if you don’t switch, call up your carrier and threaten; it should be on notice.

Flickr Tab for Chrome brings beautiful pictures to your new tab – If you don’t already use Yahoo’s Weather app, I’d humbly suggest you start right now. In addition to being accurate, it feeds you info in a really neat format. The app also uses Flickr images as its background, which are just phenomenal and contextual pieces of art that will have you opening the app over and over. If you’re using google’s Chrome browser, Yahoo just unleashed an extension that lets you display brilliant Flickr images in new tabs as a background image.

Pixelmator for iPad sees massive update; new tools, tons of fixes – When Apple launched the iPad Air 2, they ushered the team at Pixelmator onto the stage to showcase their new iPad-only photo editing app. If you’ve not yet used Pixelmator on the iPad — it’s about as good as it gets for mobile photo editing (and image creation!). Forgoing the list of filters many others want to feed you, Pixelmator is a bit more ‘pro’ than most other iPad photo editing tools. Today, an update brings in much more functionality, and some new tools for users to check out.

Windows Live Mail stores your messages, but where? Here’s how to find them – Dig into Live Mail’s settings to manage email storage and other handy features.

Slack for Windows exits beta – Popular business-communication tool Slack has finally got on board with Windows. The well-funded start-up just released a desktop app for Windows 7 and up (including the Windows 10 technical preview). Slack is part of a new generation of business-focused communication tools that function as all-in-one messaging platforms. Instead of spreading your team across instant messaging apps and email, Slack wants to replace both with capabilities for quick or long-form messaging, and the ability to easily attach files for others to access.

Apple TV revisited: 4 reasons to buy it, 4 reasons to skip it – Apple TV sometimes feels like the black sheep of Cupertino, but it got some love last week when Apple dropped the price to $69. That’s $30 cheaper than the original price, making Apple TV just a little more competitive with media streamers from Roku, Amazon, and Google. If you need a streaming set-top box and have Apple TV back on your radar, allow me to help break it down.

Security:

Signature antivirus’ dirty little secret – If you rely only on traditional, signature-based antivirus, you are going to get infected—and probably a lot! Antivirus was, and still is, a valuable addition to your layered security strategy, but only if you understand its limitations, which have become more and more prominent over time.

Poorly managed password security poured fuel on hacker fire in 2014 – While enterprises are overlooking these building blocks, hackers surely are not, according to the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly released this week. The report said users with predictable or weak passwords, and passwords reused across the Internet and the enterprise continue to be fertile ground for launching data breaches. It’s the weakest link in the chain; end-users (and often IT admins) opting for ease-of-use over security. It’s a reality that continues to lengthen the poor track record of the password, and on the bright side could help hasten new authentication methods. The report says the millions of email address and plain-text passwords collected by hackers over the years are the starting points for compromising new sites, making password reuse a fatal flaw of end-users who are putting themselves at risk for brute-force attacks against their accounts.

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You need to apply the OpenSSL patches today, not tomorrow – At first glance, you might not think that the latest set of OpenSSL security patches are that important. Sure, there’s a dozen of them and two are serious, but are they really that bad? Yes, actually they’re not just bad, they’re awful. True, some operating systems, such as Red Hat Linux Enterprise (RHEL), aren’t greatly impacted by these latest problems. But if you’re using any operating system that uses OpenSSL 1.0.2 or OpenSSL versions: 1.0.1, 1.0.0 and 0.9.8, it’s another story.

Amazon doesn’t want you to know how many data demands it gets – Google, Microsoft and Apple have reported on data demands received from the US government. So why has Amazon kept quiet all this time?

Company News:

T-Mobile violated US labor laws, agency judge rules – T-Mobile, known for bashing its competitors in the wireless business, is in hot water for the treatment of its own employees. One of the nation’s largest wireless carriers violated federal labor laws by illegally restricting employees from discussing basic workplace issues like wages and suppressing their attempts to organize, according to Christine Dibble, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency created to enforce labor laws.

HBO, Showtime, and Sony want an Internet fast lane for TV streaming – In the wake of the FCC’s Net Neutrality vote, all web content is created equal. However, nothing is every black and white, and there is a new gray area when it comes to managed services. HBO, Showtime, and Sony Corp. are pushing for their streaming content to be treated separately and have talked to Comcast Corp. about being included in their separate data lane for “managed services.”

Opera Buys SurfEasy To Add Secure VPN Services To Its Browser Software – Opera, makers of a suite of software for browsing the web on mobile and desktop devices used by some 350 million consumers, has made another acquisition to build out the services it offers to users. It has acquired SurfEasy, makers of a virtual private network (VPN) app that lets users browse the web more securely. This is Opera’s first security-focused acquisition, and it is made in the context of a growing demand among consumers not just for easy and cheap ways to browse the internet — a market that Opera has squarely played into up to now — but also more private ways of doing so.

Google reportedly blackmailed websites into giving it content for free – In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission investigated Google to determine whether the company’s monopoly on the search market violated anti-trust laws. The Commission ultimately accepted a settlement with the search giant, but a confidential FTC report obtained by The Wall Street Journal reveals how deeply divided the Commission was over whether to sue. As part of the settlement, Google agreed to make minor changes to its business practices and argued that the report did not show wrongdoing. But key FTC officials, after collecting nine million documents in the course of the investigation, wanted to take direct legal action against the company. The report reveals why.

FAA Grants Amazon Permission To Test Drone Deliveries – The FAA just released a statement indicating that Amazon now has limited permission to test and develop drones in the United States. It’s not a blank check, though. The FAA gave Amazon strict rules and regulations. Amazon announced its drone ambitions in October 2013 and has since been grounded by the FAA. The federal agency was not as enthusiastic about Amazon’s plans, forcing the company to test its projects overseas. Since then, Amazon has been building and developing its drone project at Cambridge. Today’s news could bring the operation back to the states.

Games and Entertainment:

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s DLC ‘Ascendance’ hits Xbox on March 31 – The second Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare DLC — titled “Ascendance” — will be arriving on March 31 for the Xbox One and the Xbox 360, it has been announced. PlayStation gamers will be forced to wait an extra month before it drops, but it looks to be worth the wait. Activision and Sledgehammer Games have detailed what the latest expansion will bring with it, and that includes the second chapter for the Exo Zombies mode and new weapons, among other things.

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Dead Trigger 2 is coming soon to Windows devices – Dead Trigger 2, the sequel to Dead Trigger, is an extremely popular game that has been available on Facebook, Android and iOS for quite some time. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a mission based zombie-themed first person shooter with cutting edge graphics and superb controls. Although it’s not an open-world game, it does allow players to move and aim their guns at the walking dead. The great news is that after spending nearly two years on other platforms, the game is coming very soon to Windows devices as well.

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Watch This EVE: Valkyrie Trailer To Get A Taste Of What Space Combat Is Like In VR – It is very hard to convey how cool virtual reality experiences are if you haven’t had a chance to try it out for yourself using devices like the Oculus Rift, but this new EVE: Valkyrie trailer does a pretty good job. For added immersive effect, take your phone, put it at the bottom of a sock, and stretch the sock over your face while watching the above in full-screen mode. Or, you can take us at our word that experiencing this type of action in VR would, in fact, be mind-blowing.

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The iPhone’s best new puzzle game is about NSA surveillance – The most popular mobile games don’t demand much from you. You can zone out to Candy Crush Saga, and games like Threes only require your attention for short bursts. Out of sight, out of mind is a fine summation of my mobile gaming habit. TouchTone goes in a different direction. At its core it’s a series of logic puzzles, much like every other game on your smartphone; the difference is how they’re framed. In the game, you’re not solving puzzles in search of a high score to best your friends, but instead hacking into the personal emails and texts of ordinary citizens. The surveillance theme makes it feel completely different than anything else on the App Store.

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Watch Magic Leap’s Video Of Seamless Augmented Reality Office Game Play – The brief video shows examples of interacting with YouTube and Gmail apps, along with browsing a menu system for OS-level interaction. The person in the video from whose perspective it’s apparently shot then selects a shooter game, tests out a weapon after choosing from a variety of options, does some tower-defence style stuff by placing a current and fights some visually impressive but fairly generic baddies.

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PlayStation Vue: here’s what you need to know – Sony’s newest TV-based venture is PlayStation Vue, a system that works specifically on their PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 gaming devices. Now that we’re well and away from the launch of the PS4, a device that Sony assured the public was a “gamer-centric” system back in 2013, it’s time to get serious about bringing on television services. For the time being, PlayStation Vue – a TV channel service – will be available to Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia only, though more cities are on the way in the near future.

Off Topic (Sort of):

What is TV contrast ratio? – Contrast ratio is one of the most important aspects of picture quality, yet it’s poorly understood and often not even mentioned on TV specification sheets anymore. Here’s what you need to know.

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Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

There may be more Earth-like planets than grains of sand on all our beaches – The fascinating question of whether we are alone in the universe basically comes down to some intricate mathematical calculations. A new study combines exoplanet data from the Kepler Space Telescope with a new version of a 250-year-old method for determining orbital periods and positions of planets. The research calculates that in our galaxy alone, there could be billions of planets hosting liquid water, habitable conditions and perhaps even life.

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The CIA Just Declassified the Document That Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion – The National Intelligence Assessment was the classified document used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Newly declassified, it tells a much different story than the Bush administration told 12 years ago.

Arizona shooting victim stops to snap selfies of his wounds – After being shot in the shoulder in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday, a student decides it would be a good idea to stop and snap a few selfies.

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Will robots take our jobs and overpower us? Bill Gates has some concerns – When anyone speaks of a twin threat, I tend to hear portentous music just behind my head. When that person is Bill Gates, a thumping begins inside my head. The Microsoft co-founder is another, you see, who worries about Robotworld. He is concerned that too many things might go wrong. For humanity, that is. Speaking to Re/Code after a TED talk Wednesday, Gates offered two threat scenarios, both of which are deeply uncomfortable.

The Surprising New Tech in March Madness Refs’ Whistles – This March Madness, a ref’s whistle blast will instantly stop the game clock, thanks to a a new technology that detects the shrill cry above the din of the crowd. The technology relies on a breakthrough in whistle design, the New York Times reports.

Something to think about:

“One of the risks inherent in the steady flow of leaks from Mr. Snowden and others is that the new reality they portray eventually becomes accepted, if not outright banal. Of course we are being surveilled all the time; of course our location is being tracked thanks to the GPS chips in our phones; of course the NSA is installing “back door” software on our Internet devices before we even buy them. At this point, it’s hard to imagine a surveillance revelation that would actually surprise anyone, no matter how Orwellian.”

–     Mathew IngramThe Globe and Mail

Today’s Free Downloads:

Restore Point Creator – Create and manage System Restore Points quickly and easily, all from a free simple program. No more drilling through multiple menus in Windows just to create a System Restore Point, now all you have to do is run this program and that’s it. Follow the simple program layout and you have your System Restore Point created in no time at all.

Plus, for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8, creating System Restore Points is even quicker and easier with this program. Just pin this program to the Taskbar and you have the ability to quickly create System Restore Points using one of the two pinned Tasks (“Create System Checkpoint” and “Create Custom Named”) that the program creates. It’s that simple.

Create System Checkpoint – Creates a System Restore Point with the name of “System Checkpoint made by System Restore Point Creator”

Create Custom Named – Asks you what you want your System Restore Point to be named and then creates one based upon what you inputted.

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ImDisk Toolkit – This all-in-one package includes the ImDisk Virtual Disk Driver, the DiscUtils library and an easier to use graphical user interface (GUI).

This tool will let you mount image files of hard drive, cd-rom or floppy, and create one or several RamDisks with various parameters.

The full package supports the following image file formats (non exhaustive list):

vhd, vdi and vmdk (static, dynamic and vmdk multipart)

iso, nrg, bin (read-only)

raw formats (img, ima, raw, vfd…)

dmg

sdi (some versions only)

Some other formats may work but require tests, and the non Windows file systems may need additional drivers.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden: IT workers are now target of spies – Spies are increasingly targeting IT staff to gain access to key elements of internet infrastructure and sensitive databases, NSA contractor-turned whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned.

“It’s not that they are looking for terrorists, it’s not that they are looking for bad guys, it’s that they are looking for people with access to infrastructure. They are looking for service providers, they are looking for systems administrators, they’re looking for engineers,” he said, speaking at the CeBIT technology show in Germany via a video link from Russia.

He added: “They are looking for the people who are in this room right now: you will be the target. Not because you are a terrorist, not because you are suspected of any criminal wrongdoing, but because you have access to systems, you have access to infrastructure, you have access to the private records, people’s private lives. These are the things that they want. It is important for us to come together and prevent that from happening.”

Snowden isn’t the only one to warn that IT staff are being targeted by spies, although mostly the finger is being pointed at foreign intelligence agencies.

Political Pressure To Pass CISA Quickly Could Pose ‘Big Problem’ For Civil Liberties – For years lawmakers and civil liberties advocates have sparred over cybersecurity legislation that would allow companies to share information with government agencies and each other.

Now the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, better known as CISA, is back. Despite recent amendments intended to bolster protection of consumers’ personal information, privacy advocates worry that political pressure arising from a recent string of high-profile cyberattacks on companies such as Sony could result in Congress pushing through a bill, as ACLU legislative counsel/policy advisor Gabe Rottman said, “recklessly.”

“This is a surveillance bill by another name,” said Rottman, who said the bill would create exceptions to privacy law and too broadly defines what the government can do with information it collects under CISA.

Last year CISA failed to reach the floor after civil liberties advocates denounced the bill, and the White House promised to veto it. But after a closed mark-up session this week, the bill sailed through the Intelligence Committee with a 14-1 vote of support.

Intelligence Committee chairman Senator Richard Burr yesterday praised the adjusted bill, which could see a vote as early as April.

US Threatened Germany Over Snowden, Vice Chancellor Says – German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said this week in Homburg that the U.S. government threatened to cease sharing intelligence with Germany if Berlin offered asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden or otherwise arranged for him to travel to that country. “They told us they would stop notifying us of plots and other intelligence matters,” Gabriel said.

The vice chancellor delivered a speech in which he praised the journalists who worked on the Snowden archive, and then lamented the fact that Snowden was forced to seek refuge in “Vladimir Putin’s autocratic Russia” because no other nation was willing and able to protect him from threats of imprisonment by the U.S. government (I was present at the event to receive an award). That prompted an audience member to interrupt his speech and yell out: “Why don’t you bring him to Germany, then?”

There has been a sustained debate in Germany over whether to grant asylum to Snowden, and a major controversy arose last year when a Parliamentary Committee investigating NSA spying divided as to whether to bring Snowden to testify in person, and then narrowly refused at the behest of the Merkel government. In response to the audience interruption, Gabriel claimed that Germany would be legally obligated to extradite Snowden to the U.S. if he were on German soil.

Team Australia, your surveillance is ready – The vote that assured the citizens of Australia will live under the impost of a two-year mandatory data-retention regime is recorded in Hansard with the following line:

“The House divided and only Mr Bandt, Ms McGowan, and Mr Wilkie voting ‘No’.”

And so it was that Australia’s intelligence and law-enforcement services became one Senate vote away from being successful in their lobbying to create a sliding two-year window that could track the communications metadata of all Australians, and the movements of any person in the nation who carries a mobile phone.

Ever since the Coalition government decided that Australia needed to have its communications tracked and noted, ministers have bandied about the misinformation that what was contained in the data-retention legislation was nothing above and beyond the information telcos collect when going about their normal business.

Filming cops from within a 25-foot radius could be illegal in Texas – A bill outlawing the filming of police within a 25-foot radius landed in a Texas legislative committee late Wednesday, a measure that carries a maximum 180-day jail term and $2,000 fine.

The proposed buffer would increase to 100 feet for individuals carrying firearms, according to the legislation proposed by Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican whose measure was referred to the House Committee on Emerging Issues In Texas Law Enforcement. Maximum penalties for violating the gun restriction are a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

“They have the ability to say, ‘Step back, please don’t interfere,’ but a lot of times these situations are in the heat of a law enforcement officer doing their jobs,” Villalba said. “We’re just trying to create enough separation, enough space so that officer feels comfortable.”

Villalba also told the Dallas Observer that he’s “not trying to limit the ability to film.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas blasted the proposal, saying the public has a First Amendment right to record officers. “HB 2918 would deprive us of an important check against abuse of power by the police,” the group said.

China’s biggest anti-censorship service is under attack – Someone is trying to wipe China’s biggest anti-censorship service off the internet. For the past two days, the mirror websites run by GreatFire.org have been under an unprecedented denial-of-service attack, receiving more than 2 billion requests per hour. “We are not equipped to handle a DDoS attack of this magnitude and we need help,” the site said in a statement this morning. “This kind of attack is aggressive and is an exhibition of censorship by brute force.”

GreatFire’s mirroring service serves as a kind of secondary home for sites like Google or The Tibet Post that would otherwise be blocked by China’s web censorship systems. That makes it harder to block through conventional means, but it’s still vulnerable to brute force attacks at the hosting level. Denial-of-service attacks are notoriously easy to launch, allowing relatively unsophisticated attackers to bring down comparatively large targets.

The attack seems to have come in response to a Wall Street Journal article published on Monday, which described FreeWeibo’s mirroring system in extensive detail, and may have inadvertently tipped off Chinese censors to potential attack points in FreeWeibo’s system. The attacks began Tuesday, the day after the article went live, and have continued for more than 48 hours as of press time. The attack affects all of FreeWeibo’s mirror sites, and while there’s no evidence of who is responsible, it coincides with stronger enforcement efforts from China’s Cyberspace Administration, which has publicly decried FreeWeibo’s efforts. FreeWeibo says there have also been efforts to intercept internal emails through impersonation.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 22, 2015

The 9 biggest announcements from Microsoft’s Windows 10 event;  Obama’s cybersecurity plan: Share a password, click a link, go to prison as a hacker;  Microsoft To Provide Free Upgrades To Windows 10;  VPNs made easy: 3 services with one-click desktop apps;  FreedomPop Turns On Unlimited Wi-Fi Across The US For $5/Month;  Watch Microsoft’s HoloLens in action;  Facebook’s WhatsApp comes to desktop computers;  4 time-saving tips and tricks for iOS 8;  Flash zero day under attack;  Should you cut the cord? A guide to decide for 2015;  The 10 Most-Pirated Movies;  Netflix says piracy service Popcorn Time is a real competitor;  10 Huge Hoaxes That Fooled Facebook;  Free game alert: Origin’s giving away Theme Hospital;  EnhanceMySe7en Free.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Obama’s cybersecurity plan: Share a password, click a link, go to prison as a hacker – Security experts say that, thanks to President Obama’s proposed cybersecurity plans and CFAA amendments, you could be considered a hacker for innocent behavior like sharing your Netflix password with family members or clicking a link that contains unauthorized content. EFF attorney Nate Cardozo tweeted a boiled down version of Obama’s speech: “To protect our children, I want to make it a 10-year felony to share Netflix passwords.”

The 9 biggest announcements from Microsoft’s Windows 10 event – We got our first look at a bunch of features in Windows 10, which comes out next week for people who signed up for the pre-release. As expected, Microsoft made a strong push toward connecting its devices more seamlessly, part of its universal apps program. Office, Outlook, and other apps all work quite similarly across devices, and Cortana is everywhere, working as a natural-language interface and personal assistant. The big surprise, however, was Microsoft’s foray into virtual reality, with its HoloLens glasses, an ambitious bid to create a system for overlaying holographic images over the real world.

Microsoft To Provide Free Upgrades To Windows 10 – Microsoft promised a new build of Windows 10 next week, and also confirmed previous rumors that the first build of the operating system for smartphones will be released in February. If you are on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1, you will be eligible for a free upgrade inside the first year of Windows 10. Microsoft made the announcement this morning at an event on its corporate campus outside of Seattle.

Windows 10 for phones will act like an extension of your PC – Microsoft gives the first glimpse of its next mobile operating system, including synced notifications, Skype integration and full-featured Office.

VPNs made easy: 3 services with one-click desktop apps – We’ve talked before about the importance of virtual private networks (VPNs) to keep you safe and protected when using open Wi-Fi networks. The downside of VPN’s, however, is that some need manual set-up, requiring you to muck around with the built-in VPN client in Windows or a third-party client like OpenVPN. That’s all well and good if you like getting your hands dirty, but the whole point of what we do here is to find solutions that are—dare I say it—hassle-free. Many VPNs these days offer their own no muss, no fuss downloadable client. You just download the program, turn it on, and boom! You’re connected. Here are three examples of VPNs that do just that, and all three have Android and iOS clients in addition to desktop clients.

FreedomPop Turns On Unlimited Wi-Fi Across The US For $5/Month – FreedomPop, the startup that is trying to steal users away from mobile carriers by offering free, basic cellular voice and data plans, is adding another string to its bow today: the company is launching a low-cost WiFi service, where a user gets unlimited use of, and automatic sign-on to, 10 million hotspots across the U.S. for $5.

Instagram launches beta Android app, offering sneak peek at new features – If you’re willing to serve as a guinea pig, you can try out the newest updates to Instagram before they hit the main app.

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Watch Microsoft’s HoloLens in action – Microsoft’s event this afternoon may have focused on Windows 10, but the biggest news out of it was HoloLens — a headset that lets its wearer augment their world with apps, games, and other information. Since that’s a difficult experience to convey on stage, Microsoft first presented its vision for what’ll be possible with HoloLens in a pair of videos, both of which it’s now published onto YouTube. You can watch the glasses’ introduction above and an additional video speculating about their potential below. In case you haven’t caught on, Microsoft has huge ambitions here: “This is the next generation of computing,” one person says. “This is the next PC.”

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No more free singles from Apple? Five free-music alternatives – We’re now three weeks into 2015, and the iTunes Store hasn’t shared any new free tracks. Fortunately, as any card-carrying cheapskate knows, there are plenty of other sources for free tunes. Here are five:

Twitter Officially Launches Its “While You Were Away” Recap Feature – Twitter’s “While You Were Away” feature, which helps you catch up on tweets that you missed, is officially launching on iOS today (with Android and web coming soon). The company previewed the feature at its analyst day last fall and started rolling it out at the end of December.

Facebook’s WhatsApp comes to desktop computers – The chat application, which Facebook bought for more than $19 billion in October, will now extend its service so that it can be used on desktop and laptop computers. The app now lets people send and receive messages using a website, in addition to existing mobile apps. The move expands WhatsApp’s reach to even more devices, and underscores Facebook’s desire to fuel the world’s communications.

Microsoft shows off Spartan, their Chrome/Safari challenger – Spartan was shown off at Microsoft’s event today, and we now know how Microsoft envisions the browser. After acknowledging that there was indeed something called Project Spartan, we were told all the fun things Spartan will bring us. We will get the ability to mark-up those marked-down webpages, and and migrate efficiently between touch and keyboard interactions. There is also a new reading list, and Cortana is at your side, as always. Rather than re-build the browser, Microsoft is taking the better parts on others and combining them into one.

This app will decipher your iPhone screenshots – Screenshots are a quick way to capture and store information you’ll need access to. Say, for example, a friend sends you a recipe in iMessage and you don’t want to spend hours scrolling through your chat history to recall it. Snap a screenshot, then launch your Camera Roll when you need the recipe. But what do you do when you want to transfer the recipe over to another app, or send it to someone else without actually sending the screenshot? You either wrote it down by hand, or jumped between apps copying it line by line. A new app, Screenshots, wants to make screenshots even more useful than they are now.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

4 time-saving tips and tricks for iOS 8 you probably missed – In iOS 8, Apple made things easier and more efficient. Tasks that used to take many steps now only take a few or are completely automated. Here are four of the best time-saving tips and tricks in iOS 8 — you’ll wonder how you ever used iOS without it.

Security:

Flash zero day under attack – A zero day Flash vulnerability is being actively exploited by criminals using the popular Angler exploit kit. Adobe is investigating the report by respected French malware researcher Kafeine, who found the exploit kit circulating on cybercrime forums. The vulnerabilities affected Flash Player versions up to 15.0.0.223 and the latest 16.0.0.257, he said. Punters on Windows 8.1 are safe, along with those using Google Chrome thanks to use of sandboxing.

Critical Java updates fix 19 vulnerabilities, disable SSL 3.0 – Oracle released new security updates for Java to fix 19 vulnerabilities and disable default support for SSL 3.0, an outdated version of the secure communications protocol that is vulnerable to attacks. The updates were part of Oracle’s quarterly Critical Patch Update, released Tuesday, which fixes 169 security issues across hundreds of products.

What if Facebook Is Hacked Next? – The Sony hack was just a bit of fun compared to what could happen if Facebook gets taken out. Nobody ever thinks of a behemoth like Facebook shutting down. When a company like LiveJournal is still operating just fine, the likelihood of Facebook collapsing is remote. But what would you do if it did? Do you have important data on Facebook—status updates, video, photos, etc.—that are only stored on the social network? Is it your primary method of communication with friends and family? Are you dependent on Facebook?

Over 90 percent of data breaches in first half 2014 were preventable – The Online Trust Alliance says that a high percentage of data breaches were the result of staff mistakes — rather than external hacking.

Company News:

Google wants to become a mobile carrier – Google has laid the groundwork for its own cellular service by buying capacity on the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile USA, according to news reports. Google is heavily involved in mobile through its Android operating system, the world’s most widely used mobile OS, as well as through selling mobile advertising, and is pushing to make more radio spectrum available for wireless services. But the partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile would bring the company into the cellular business itself, offering Google phone plans directly to consumers.

Google Spent Even More on Lobbying Than Comcast in 2014 – Google’s influence is increasingly being felt in Washington, according to a corporate spending watchdog. The search giant spent $16.83 million on federal lobbying in 2014, according to public records analyzed by public interest nonprofit Consumer Watchdog — just a little bit more than the $16.8 million spend racked up by noted big spender Comcast last year, as it sought to win approval for a planned $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.

Netflix says piracy service Popcorn Time is a real competitor – Netflix isn’t just worried about HBO — it’s worried about pirates, too. In a letter to shareholders yesterday, Netflix says that piracy is one of its “biggest competitors,” and notably, it specifically points to one piracy service that’s caught its attention: Popcorn Time. Popcorn Time’s app is meant to make pirating a movie as easy as streaming one on Netflix. The app allows you to browse through an iTunes-like catalog of movies and TV shows by their posters, select one for more information, and then start streaming it after a short buffering period. It’s so streamlined that anyone should be able to just pick it up and start watching.

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Dropbox acquires CloudOn in talent grab – CloudOn has been acquired by Dropbox, the company has announced. It appears this was a talent grab, and under the acquisition — the terms of which having not been revealed — the cloud storage service will bring in 30+ new employees, as well as CloudOn’s Israeli office. That latter office will be used by Dropbox as part of its hiring in the nation, the company’s product, business, and mobile lead said in an interview recently. This is the latest of many acquisitions on Dropbox’s part.

EBay to cut 7% of workforce, looks to spin-off Enterprise unit – EBay will cut roughly 7 percent of its total workforce, or 2,400 workers, and is considering a sale or IPO of its Enterprise unit, it said Wednesday. The cuts are part of a plan to save more than $300 million across the company this year as it battles sluggish traffic, low-selling items, and increased competition in e-commerce. EBay is also planning to spin off its PayPal unit into a separate company this year.

Facebook Is in a Hiring Frenzy – Facebook is seeking to grow its workforce by nearly 15 percent in the first several months of 2015, according to Reuters. The news service recently reviewing the social network’s job listings and found that the company is actively seeking to “add nearly 1,200 new employees, the outgrowth of aggressive investments that executives have said will define the coming year.” Facebook currently has just under 8,500 full-time employees on the books.

Apple buys piracy-measuring, buzz-tracking service Musicmetric – With Beats Music set to play along with iTunes, Apple has struck a new chord by buying Musicmetric, a service that measures which tunes and artists are being listened to, pirated and talked about. Launched in 2008, Musicmetric is a music-analytics service run by British company Semetric. Musicmetric delves beyond the sales and streaming charts, looking at activity on peer-to-peer networks as well as reviews and comments on blogs, social networks and YouTube.

Games and Entertainment:

Should you cut the cord? A guide to decide for 2015 – Given the tagline at the top of this column, you might think I’m a diehard cord-cutting advocate. But while I personally abandoned cable TV years ago, and hope the trend of others doing the same will bring lower prices and more choice to everyone, I don’t think it’s the best solution for everyone. In reality, cutting the cord will work better for some folks than others, but the good news is that it’s getting easier to take the plunge as new services and hardware options emerge. If you’re thinking about giving up your pay-TV subscription for an Internet-only plan, here are some questions to ask yourself first:

Microsoft To Bring Xbox One Game Streaming to Windows 10 Devices Later This Year – Xbox lead Phil Spencer showed off the new feature on stage today in Seattle at Microsoft’s special event, playing Forza on Xbox One and streaming it to a Surface 3 where he controlled and viewed it remotely. This is actually a huge win for Xbox One owners who also operate Windows 10 devices (which should theoretically include any Windows 7 or 8 device, thanks to the free year-long update period). Sony offers Remote Play for PS4, but it requires either Xperia Android-based hardware, or a PlayStation Vita or TV to work – Microsoft has a huge install base of PC hardware that it should be able to already serve.

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Elder Scrolls Online ditches mandatory subscription – As hotly-anticipated games go, Elder Scrolls Online is probably one of the most anticipated, and so news that Bethesda Softworks has not only confirmed its console release but dropped one of the more controversial subscription details is most welcome. Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited will land on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on June 9th, following its March 17th arrival on PC and Mac. Even better, Bethesda is ditching the monthly subscription the promise of which so annoyed gamers last year, though there’ll still be in-game purchases for extra content, and an optional “ESO Plus” subscription.

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The 10 Most-Pirated Movies – PCMag doesn’t support piracy in any way, shape, or form. Seriously. Our mission with this most-pirated movies article is a very simple one: to inform you about what’s happening in the online digital media world. Besides, tracking stolen movies is a decent, alternate way to gauge a flick’s popularity. Take Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example. The Michael Bay-produced movie made just a few appearances on TorrentFreak’s most-pirated movie list, but American Sniper continues to appear on the list week after week. Pirates, it seems, have taste, too.

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Free game alert: Origin’s giving away Theme Hospital – Yes, EA’s giving away Bullfrog’s 1997 title Theme Hospital this month, which is a “business simulation” game in the same way Anchorman is about the day-to-day proceedings of a local news station. Like previous “On the House” promotions, you’ll need an Origin account to take advantage. Then again, if you’ve played any EA games on PC recently you probably already have one of those. And hey, free games right? No telling how long the deal will last, though a month is a safe bet.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 Huge Hoaxes That Fooled Facebook – Surely you’ve seen these hoaxes in your Facebook News Feed: posts about celebrities, politicians, or Facebook itself that seem too good (or too awful) to be true. Or, at the very least, they are too whatever to not share with the rest of your Facebook friends. To battle this phenomenon, Facebooks this week introduced an initiative to allow users to highlight these false posts, which will help the company spot them and thus stop the spread of these outright lies. What type of things are we talking about? Check out some of the hoaxes that have made the rounds on Facebook throughout the years:

Here’s how the new Republican Congress plans to undercut net neutrality – The widespread national popularity of net neutrality principles have pushed the new Republican Congress, however tentatively, to embrace some of its core concepts. With two congressional net neutrality hearings scheduled for today, Republican lawmakers have released draft legislation that would ban broadband providers from discriminating against certain kinds of web traffic. But even as the draft bill appears to enforce fundamental tenets of net neutrality, it explicitly undermines the legal authority of the FCC. And advocates say that if passed, the bill could create new obstacles to an open internet.

Even Google makes mistakes: 4 Android features that failed – The Android of today is worlds better than what we had even a few years ago, but Google is certainly not infallible. Android has been evolving at a breakneck pace since it hit the market in 2008, and sometimes that has led to errors in judgement. Mistakes were made. There are plenty of examples where Google had to backpedal (or pull a feature entirely) after it failed to catch on, and here are four of the most prominent.

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They had potential, but it just wasn’t enough.

Become an alien hunter with free online course from Harvard – The course is called “Super-Earths And Life” and it’s being offered on the edX platform, a website created by Harvard and MIT that provides free online courses from the world’s top universities. The course will combine the latest findings in evolutionary biology with with advances that have helped us discover more and more planets outside our own solar system. It starts on February 10, lasts for six weeks and requires a commitment of about five hours per week.

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Something to think about:

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”

–      Booker T. Washington

Today’s Free Downloads:

EnhanceMySe7en Free – EnhanceMySe7en helps users to control many aspects of the system with maximum convenience.

You will get everything needed for maintaining Windows 7 in a perfect condition. The program offers tools that take care of the registry, disk space and its defragmentation, installed software, HDD temperature and all sorts of things related to system’s health. Also there are lots of other options helping to boost your system’s performance.

With a clean and simple interface it brings you an All-in-One set of powerful and neatly classified tools, settings and tweaks.

Features:

Process Identification – Identify unrecognized software

Start-Up Management – Disable unnecessary software increasing performance

Registry Cleaner – Can easily checks your registry and repair incorrectly linked registry entries, automatically remove invalid entries

Disk Cleaner – Find out which files or folders engross your disk space and shown with chart

Registry Defragmenter – Rebuilds and re-indexs your registry to reduce application response time and registry access time

Disk Defragmenter – Reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems

Hard Drive Monitor – Gives the current values of various hard disk parameters such as Temperature, Head Flying Height, Spin-Up Time etc.

System Tools, File, Network and Security Tools

Security – EnhanceMySe7en has easy to configure security settings for managing the new security features of Windows Vista

Optimization – Optimize settings for maximum speed and stability

Customization – customize system desktop, menus, toolbar and notifications settings

Network – Optimize your Internet connection speed

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AppRemover – AppRemover fully supports the thorough uninstallation of hundreds of antivirus and antispyware applications. The following support chart is updated with each new release. The chart lists two different types of supported applications. One set has been verified by OPSWAT Labs testing. The other set lists applications that have been reported as supported by the hundreds of thousands of users that have previously downloaded AppRemover. After using AppRemover, please take a moment to answer a few brief questions about the product. Your feedback will greatly improve AppRemover’s effectiveness.

In addition, AppRemover may be able to successfully remove other security applications on your system. However, these are not guaranteed.

Use AppRemover:

When replacing one security application with another

When competing security applications tie up your computer

When the application’s built-in uninstall process fails

When you have forgotten the application password

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ParkControl – ParkControl is a small freeware utility that facilitates tweaking of core parking and CPU frequency scaling settings of Windows power plans. It has no installer. It is a live EXE.

Bitsum developed ParkControl because core parking settings are hidden in Windows, but can make such a large difference on performance, particularly when there are bursting CPU bound loads (the most common type).

Core Parking is a sleep state (C6) supported by most newer x86 processors, and newer editions of Windows. Core Parking dynamically disables CPU cores in an effort to conserve power when idle. Disabled cores are re-enabled as the CPU load increases once again. This technology is very similar to frequency scaling, in that it seeks to throttle the CPU when idle.

The problem is that Window’s default power profiles are configured far too aggressively when it comes to core parking, especially on workstations. Their interest was in conserving energy, even if this meant marginally decreasing performance. A number of complex parameters control when a core should be parked, and Microsoft tuned heavily towards power savings.

The core parking settings in Windows are implemented as parameters of power plans (aka power profiles). That means you can, for example, disable core parking for the High Performance power plan, but leave it enabled for other plans. And that is exactly the desired tweak for most users: disable parking only for high performance power plans.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Will Obama finally change cybersecurity in America? – During his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, the president barely tipped his hat to major cybersecurity reform proposals he introduced in speeches last week. They included streamlining the current patchwork approach to data breach disclosure, information sharing between private companies and the government, and increased penalties for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

“If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable,” Obama said during his speech, which was light on details. “If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.”

These proposals come at a time when the American people are arguably more concerned about cybersecurity than ever before. A Gallup poll in October found hacking was the top crime Americans worry about, above murder, assault and terrorism. And there’s good reason. This past year was one of the most active on record for hackers who breached computer systems at major retailers, financial institutions and even Hollywood.

The Obama administration responded by proposing new legislation to force cybersecurity changes which have stalled in Congress for years. Yet even after the devastating attacks on Sony Pictures in November, experts are skeptical Obama can convince Congress to support his proposals.

Calls for ISPs to filter content could be illegal, EU council documents suggest – Last week justice ministers from across the European Union called on ISPs to conduct voluntary censorship of online content—but documents in preparation for a meeting of telecoms ministers suggest such a move could be illegal.

The documents, prepared by the Latvian presidency of the Council of the EU, note that calls to allow Internet service providers to block or filter content in the “public interest” as part of a proposed net neutrality law could violate privacy laws that protect the confidentiality of communication.

The Council, along with the Commission and the Parliament, is one of the EU’s three lawmaking bodies. The member states take turns as president of the council: Latvia took over from Italy for its six-month stint on Jan. 1.

Different ministers participate in each meeting of the Council: net neutrality is on the agenda for a forthcoming meeting of telecommunications ministers, and on Tuesday the presidency released a document outlining issues that need to be addressed.

Australian government blames Snowden for data retention – The Australian Attorney-General’s Department has pushed back at industry and privacy advocate concerns over mandatory data-retention legislation, stating that the leaks on the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance operations by whistleblower Edward Snowden have hastened the need for the regime.

Under legislation currently before the parliament, Australian telecommunications companies would be required to retain an as-yet-undefined set of customer data for two years, not limited to but including call records, address information, email addresses, and assigned IP addresses.

The legislation is being backed up by Australian law-enforcement agencies, which claim that access to the data without a warrant is vital to almost every criminal investigation. Telecommunications companies and privacy advocates, however, warn that the scheme would be a major intrusion on the lives of every Australian, and that the costs of running the scheme will lead to higher prices for internet and phone services.

The Attorney-General’s Department, however, claims in its submission to the parliamentary committee investigating the legislation that there are “no practical alternatives” to a legislated mandatory data-retention regime.

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