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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 4, 2014

Getting Hacked Is in Your Future;  How to make Android Lollipop more secure;  New ‘Device Assist’ app helps you with all things Android;  10 cool tricks for Siri for iOS 8;  12 essential Microsoft business apps for the iPhone;  Squashed bug opened EVERY PayPal account to hijacking;  Five mobile apps for opening a variety of email attachments;  Tiny Arduino Board With A Built-in Touchscreen;  Firefox is headed to iOS;   Google plans kid-friendly products starting in 2015;  Target Australia stops selling GTA V in wake of sex worker petition;  Fewer People Than Ever Are Watching TV;  21 new Android 5.0 features you need to know about.

New ‘Device Assist’ app helps you with all things Android – Do you even know what’s going on with Android? If you’re a new user, probably not. There are a lot of subtle tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Android handset, and Google is finally acknowledging it’s not easy to know what those are. A new app, Device Assist, has landed on the Play Store today, and helps users discover all the neat little ways they can make their device last longer and provide the info they want. Well, so long as you have a Google-y android handset, that is.

12 essential Microsoft business apps for the iPhone – As part of Microsoft’s “mobile first, cloud first” mission, it has built up a large portfolio of consumer and business apps on every platform. In this roundup, I look at a dozen iOS apps that help IT pros and power users stay productive with an iPhone and Microsoft services.

Good Deal: Spotify’s premium service is 99 cents a month for three months – If you’ve managed to avoid using Spotify all this time, your patience has finally been rewarded. As part of a limited time deal, the company is giving new subscribers a rate of 99 cents a month for up to three months of service, something that normally costs $9.99 a month. That gets you no advertising, higher bitrates, and the capability to download music for offline listening.

10 cool tricks for Siri for iOS 8 – Apple’s Siri keeps getting smarter — here’s ten neat things you can do with Siri on your iPad or iPhone.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

21 new Android 5.0 features you need to know about – Google recently released Android 5.0 Lollipop, the largest Android update to date. The updated version of the popular mobile operating system is slowly making its way to older devices. Here are the new features in Android 5.0 Lollipop that you need to know about.

Record the screen of your Android Lollipop device with this free app – Screenshots are a thing of the past. With this free app, you can record the screen of your Lollipop device.

Tommy Hilfiger launches solar power jackets to charge your phone – The clothing label has developed a range of clothing embedded with solar panels so that you always have backup power for your devices.


Google’s reCAPTCHA (Mostly) Does Away With Those Annoying CAPTCHAs – The end of the CAPTCHA is nigh — and very few tears will be shed for them. As Google today announced, those ubiquitous forms that make you prove you are human by typing in barely legible words and house numbers will soon be replaced with a single click — at least on sites that use Google’s reCAPTCHA service. So why is Google making this switch? It turns out that the old-style CAPTCHAs weren’t all that good at keeping robots out anyway. With today’s technology, bots could solve CAPTCHAs with 99.8 percent accuracy.

Wire communications app for voice, text, and images set to launch – A new communications network is set to launch that is backed by Skype co-founder Janus Friis and over 50 other people from 23 different countries. The communication network is called Wire and it promises to support text messaging, voice calling, sharing images, music, and video on phones, tablets, and computers.


After School Is The Latest Anonymous App Resulting In Student Cyberbullying And School Threats – Meet After School, an anonymous Whisper-like app that hit the App Store in October 2014. And of course it’s causing issues in countless schools like Yik Yak and Ask.fm did before it. Claims of cyberbullying stemming from the After School app are quickly popping up: Schools across metro Detroit warned parents about it, and a gun threat posted on the app resulted in a heightened level of security and police presence earlier today at another school, MLive reports.


Chinese handsets account for almost 40 percent of global shipments – Shipments of Chinese handsets for 2014 have totalled over 450 million, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the global total, set to exceed 50 percent by 2016.

SuperDuino Is A Tiny Arduino Board With A Built-in Touchscreen – Another day, another Arduino project. This time it’s something called SuperDuino, a tiny touchscreen powered by a coin cell battery and backed up by a tiny Arduino-Like processor. The kit can be used to build smartwatches and other mini devices and costs about $25 for the entire system. You can add microSD readers, Bluetooth, and wireless connectivity to the SuperDuino, as well.


Five mobile apps for opening a variety of email attachments – The time to discover you can’t open an email attachment is not when you’re sitting on a plane without the app you need. Brien Posey suggests five tools to keep you productive, even in transit.

Firefox is headed to iOS, browser restrictions be damned – After years of vowing not to bring Firefox to the iPhone and iPad, Mozilla is changing its tune–and is presumably willing to work with Apple’s rules.

Bluetooth 4.2 will get faster, more private – One of the most-used connections between your smart devices is about to get a whole lot faster and more secure. The folks at the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) officially adopted a new standard of Bluetooth technology, Bluetooth 4.2. Bluetooth is now in nearly every smartphone and tablet on the market, and with this new specification, the technology can expand before devices are even at the point at which developers have found use-cases. The next generation of Bluetooth devices – coming as soon as this Spring, in some cases, will have more secure connections, faster connections, and a more diverse portfolio of connectivity options.


Squashed bug opened EVERY PayPal account to hijacking: Yet another tale of incredibly crocked software – PayPal has plugged a huge hole that exposed every account to hijacking. The cross-site request forgery (CSRF) flaw reported by Egyptian researcher Yassar H Ali allowed attackers access to any PayPal account of their choosing if they were capable of convincing a target to click a link.

FTC: Online billing service deceptively collected medical records – The agency reaches a settlement with a billing service that tried to populate online medical records with customer data.

Getting Hacked Is in Your Future – The latest cyber threat is a new piece of programmable malware called Regin. The media has approached the discovery of this code from various perspectives. Most believe it to be some cool multi-purpose code developed by the U.S. or British government. It’s apparently used to spy on large corporations or even target individuals for anti-terrorism reasons or even blackmail. What is completely overlooked in the analysis is that within the next year or two this code will be completely in the wild and reverse engineered. Then, anyone with a computer and a few layers of proxy protection will be able to launch it. We can all become snoops and spies.

Facebook cosies up to ESET for malware detection – Facebook, which earlier this year started partnering with F-Secure and Trend Micro for malware detection, has added Slovak vendor ESET to its suite of security products. The previous tie-ups, detailed here, are worth noting to put the new partnership in context. F-Secure and Trend both pointed Facebook users at their free online scans if devices behaved in a way that suggested infection. ESET is operating under a similar deal, and Facebook similarly says the tie-ups will help it keep malicious links and harmful sites out of News Feeds and Messages.

How to make Android Lollipop more secure – Besides installing third-party software, there are several ways you can enhance your device’s security through built-in controls in Android Lollipop.

Company News:

Netflix Accused of Trying to Secure Internet ‘Fast Lanes’ – Netflix has been a vocal supporter of net neutrality, but the way it caches content and serves up streams appears to violate net neutrality, according to an FCC commissioner. In a Tuesday letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai pointed to Netflix’s decision not to join the Streaming Video Alliance, as well as its Open Connect content delivery system as examples of how Netflix is “working to effectively secure ‘fast lanes’ for its content on ISPs’ networks at the expense of its competitors.”

Google plans kid-friendly products starting in 2015 – Google sees a lot of traffic pop through their servers, but how much of it is from kids? The search company has no real idea, but they’d like to have a better grasp on that knowledge. Whether it’s YouTube, Search, or other properties, kids are using Google stuff now more than ever. To that, Google promises to release kid-friendly versions of their various properties next year. The aforementioned YouTube and Search are likely going to make the cut, as could Chrome.

UK announces a ‘Google tax’ to stop companies diverting profits overseas – The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, responsible for setting the UK’s budget, today announced plans for a new 25 percent tax intended to close loopholes that presently see multinational companies extracting their profits to lower-tax regimes like Ireland. It has already been described as a “Google tax,” though it affects a practice that is widespread across the tech industry and others beyond it: Apple, Amazon, Starbucks, and others have all been subject to scrutiny about the ways in which they account for their profits.

Comcast and Time Warner now running adverts to convince you the acquisition is a good idea – Comcast is in the process of trying to acquire Time Warner in the US and to help convince consumers that the acquisition is a good idea, they are running web adverts to support their agenda.


Australian court dismisses Apple ‘App Store’ trademark appeal – Apple lost an appeal in Australia’s Federal Court on Wednesday over its bid for the “App Store” trademark. The company applied for the trademark in July 2008, but the application was rejected by the country’s Registrar of Trade Marks. It was also opposed by Microsoft. In his ruling, Federal Judge David Yates wrote that when Apple launched its store and applied for the trademark, it did not mean the company had “coined a new word” or gave the word “app” a changed meaning.

Games and Entertainment:

Target Australia stops selling GTA V in wake of sex worker petition – Major brick-and-mortar retailer Target Australia will stop selling Grand Theft Auto V in its 300 or so stores after an online petition condemning the game’s depiction of violence against sex workers drew more than 40,000 signatures (the chain is not directly related to the US retailer of the same name). In a statement posted online, Target Australia General Manager of Corporate Affairs Jim Cooper cited “feedback from customers about the game’s depictions of violence against women” and “extensive community and customer concern about the game” in making the decision.


An image from GTA V used to highlight the game’s sexual violence in a Change.org petition.

Sony celebrates PlayStation’s 20th anniversary with discounts on popular titles – Sony is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the original PlayStation console by offering popular game titles for cheap and some additional discounts for PS Plus members, starting today.

Independence Day 2 tipped to arrive in 2016 – We’ve been hearing about a follow-up to Independence Day for quite some time, and finally (finally) there’s good news: 20th Century Fox has given the green light to proceed with the film, which will enter production in May 2015. Such information comes from Deadline, which is reporting that Will Smith won’t be taking up his former role — something that doesn’t come as a surprise to those who have been keeping an eye on the rumors. We’ve got all the details after the jump.


This Megacut Video Of 45 Disney Characters Singing “Jingle Bells” Will Totally Get You In The Holiday Spirit – Disney Movies Anywhere has cut together 45 Disney characters singing the words in order to bring you an extra special version of “Jingle Bells.”


Off Topic (Sort of):

Need an electronic circuit? Just load paper and hit print – Researchers have created highly conductive and durable silver nanowire ink that can be used to print durable electronic circuits on paper. The technology is being touted by the researchers at the University of Tennessee as a breakthrough in making inexpensive, flexible, disposable electronic sensors that can be used for a wide range of medical purposes, as well as an “electronic skin” that can act as touchpad sensors on robotics. Robots with electronic skin could, for example, go to a patient’s bedside and through touch, determine vital signs and other diagnostic data, or a patient could use the skin as a touch pad to alert medical staff or find information.


World’s fastest 2D camera can capture 100 billion frames per second – A new 2D camera developed by a team of biomedical engineers is the fastest ever made, able to image light phenomena in more detail than ever before.


Illustration of how the camera works.

Ultrasound creates a haptic shape that can be seen and felt – A team at the University of Bristol has used ultrasound to create three-dimensional shapes in mid-air that can be touched and seen.


Fewer People Than Ever Are Watching TV – The long-prognosticated death of TV may be happening before our eyes—but at a glacial pace. A new in-depth report from tracking firm Nielsen shows that TV is still by far America’s favorite entertainment past-time, but individuals are spending more hours surfing web and viewing streaming services. A growing number of households are choosing to dump TV altogether.

Something to think about:

“There ain’t no free lunches in this country. And don’t go spending your whole life commiserating that you got raw deals. You’ve got to say, ‘I think that if I keep working at this and want it bad enough I can have it.’”

–        Lee Iacocca

Today’s Free Downloads:

CurrPorts – CurrPorts displays the list of all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports on your local computer. For each port in the list, information about the process that opened the port is also displayed, including the process name, full path of the process, version information of the process (product name, file description, and so on), the time that the process was created, and the user that created it.

In addition, CurrPorts allows you to close unwanted TCP connections, kill the process that opened the ports, and save the TCP/UDP ports information to HTML file , XML file, or to tab-delimited text file.

CurrPorts also automatically mark with pink color suspicious TCP/UDP ports owned by unidentified applications.


Pixopedia 2014 – MajorGeek Says: Pixopedia is another free graphics program to add to your collection. It comes portable so it’s is easy to run and move around and has a lot of the features you find in the competition and maybe more. One of the coolest features I found was the ability to use buttons or tool panels. Once you become familiar with the buttons or icons that surround the program, it becomes easy to simply click on an icon rather than go to the standard panels. It will take a bit of getting used to with a new program, but it’s neat. There are a ton of shapes, brushes and other filters available. Give this one a whirl, I think you will be impressed.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tonight the NYPD chose Lady Gaga and a Christmas tree over democracy – Welcome to America. Now show us your ticket or get lost. That’s what officers of the New York Police Department told hundreds of people tonight as they cordoned off a massive area in Midtown Manhattan, trapping protesters, tourists, workers, residents, and others between barricades that stretched out of sight along 6th Avenue and across two long blocks to Madison Avenue. It was a confluence of two discordant events: NBC’s lavish celebration of Christmas spirit, and the mourning of yet another unarmed black man viciously killed by police.

I was in the crowd created by the NYPD and found myself stuck in close quarters with no escape for at least half an hour near Radio City Music Hall, as tourists and protesters jostled to find out what was going on and where they could go.

The message was clear: the right of citizens to peacefully assemble in public spaces is less important than making sure NBC’s Christmas television special in Rockefeller Center — you know, the one where they light the big tree and have Mariah Carey sing — is packed with happy faces.

Iran moves forward with death penalty over Facebook posts – A 30-year-old blogger and photographer has been sentenced to death in Iran for “insulting the prophet of Islam” on Facebook, drawing renewed attention to the country’s notorious human rights record. The man, Soheil Arabi, was convicted in a Tehran criminal court in August after admitting to posting the defamatory content. His lawyers argued that he had done so while “in poor psychological condition,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, and that he was merely sharing views held by others.

Video of police brutality can only do so much: NYPD chokehold cop not indicted – On Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury cleared a New York Police Department officer of all criminal wrongdoing in an incident that took place over the summer, when officer Daniel Pantaleo put Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man who was a father of six, in a chokehold that killed him.

Garner, an asthmatic, repeatedly told the officer that he couldn’t breathe as he was being choked. Garner’s case shows that, clear rules about taking and handling footage aside, a video that clearly implicates a white police officer in a black man’s death cannot overcome what looks incredibly like—if not out-and-out racism—a dogged determination to uphold the impunity of police officers on the part of the justice system.

Ultimately, it seems, video footage objectively showing how an incident occurred can be ignored. A chokehold, forbidden by the NYPD, can be justified.


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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 16, 2014

Court blasts US Navy for scanning civilians’ computers;  Google user data skyrocket;  What to do when your USB device doesn’t work;  Yahoo slams ‘digital will’ law, says users have privacy when they die;  Boxer: An efficient, yet simple, email client for Android;  How to start blogging with Microsoft Word;  India’s Best Budget Smartphones;  Five new iOS apps to improve your job performance;  Apple Pay is as safe as your selfies, says PayPal ad;  Google wants to test-fly drones in New Mexico;  Prevent identity theft with this interactive site;  Google launches Android One, bringing India $105 smartphones;  Auslogics Duplicate File Finder (free);  Wikileaks Releases German Spyware That Governments Used To Hack Journalists And Dissidents;  Hacker exploits printer Web interface to install, run Doom;  Julian Assange on Snowden, disliking Google, and his “inevitable” freedom;  NirLauncher – 100 portable freeware utilities for Windows (free).

Court blasts US Navy for scanning civilians’ computers for child porn – A federal appeals court said the US Navy’s scanning of the public’s computers for images of child pornography constituted “a profound lack of regard for the important limitations on the role of the military in our civilian society. RoundUp surveillance of all computers in Washington amounted to impermissible direct active involvement in civilian enforcement of the child pornography laws, not permissible indirect assistance,” Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for the San Francisco-based appeals court.

Google user data skyrocket – Government requests for user information — such as registration information, emails and IP addresses — are up 15 percent in the first half of 2014, and up 150 percent since the report was first published in 2009, wrote Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director of law enforcement and information security, in a blog post on Monday. In the US, government requests for user data are up 19 percent and 250 percent, respectively.

Yahoo slams ‘digital will’ law, says users have privacy when they die – What should happen to your personal digital communications — emails, chats, photos and the like — after you die? Should they be treated like physical letters for the purposes of a will? Yahoo doesn’t think so. The company is criticizing new legislation giving executors charged with carrying out the instructions in a person’s will broad access to their online accounts. The legislation aims to tackle the sensitive question of what to do when someone’s online accounts on sites like Facebook, Google or Yahoo outlive them.

What to do when your USB device doesn’t work – Clearly, something is broken. But is it hardware, software, the device or the computer? That’s going to take some experimentation. First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Unplug the device, then plug it again. Did that fix the problem? If not, unplug it again, reboot your PC, and then plug it in again. Did that help? How about trying another port? No? Well, it was worth a try. Since the problem persists, let’s get on to more serious tests.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Mailpile enters beta—It’s like Gmail, but you run it on your own computer – The extra value with Mailpile is the security side. Unlike many other MUAs that support encryption only through plug-ins, Mailpile integrates PGP as part of its core, letting users transparently send encrypted e-mails to each other without having to go through much of the unfriendly complexity required to properly send and receive encrypted mail. In fact, the heavy focus on encryption is one of Mailpile’s biggest selling points—your mail still transits through Gmail or Yahoo or whatever public mail service you use, but the more of it that’s encrypted at the endpoints, the more difficult it is for an outsider to snoop on it.

Boxer: An efficient, yet simple, email client for Android – If you’re looking for a better email client on your Android device, Jack Wallen has just the tool for you. Boxer will make mobile email an efficient and simple task.

How to start blogging with Microsoft Word – Blogging with Microsoft Word lets you use the richly featured word processor to circumvent many of the underpowered, sometimes unfriendly aspects of browser-based interfaces used by platforms like WordPress or Blogger. We’ll show you several ways to write and publish blog posts directly from Word, using the tools and shortcuts you already know. While the this tutorial is written for Word 2013, the necessary features are available in all versions starting from Word 2007.

Google launches Android One, bringing India $105 smartphones – Today, Google is launching “Android One” in India, an effort to get high-quality, cheap smartphones into the hands of people in developing countries. Google provides a reference design to OEMs, which then build devices to Google’s spec. The devices run stock Android, and Google provides all the updates—you can think of it as a non-flagship version of the Nexus program.


India’s Best Budget Smartphones – The Android wars have just begun and Google’s new Android Ones will soon go head-to-head against the dominant models in the marketplace. Which means it’s a great time to see who the best of the budget breed in India currently are and what the new Ones will have to do to wrest customers away from them

Five new iOS apps to improve your job performance – From tuning up your brain to enabling on-the-fly sketches and annotations, these apps will help you do your job more effectively.

Apple Lets You Preserve Your Musical Taste With A U2 Album Removal Tool – Removing the Songs of Innocence album is as easy as following a link, and then logging in to your iTunes store account. Once you’ve completed those two steps, a message lets you know it’s gone, though you’ll have to delete the actual tracks from your devices if you managed to download them.


How Many Times A Day Do You Check Your Phone? Checky Will Tell You – This very basic app simply shows you how many times per day you’ve checked your phone, and maps out where that usage occurred. Effectively, the app serves as an advertisement for Calm’s flagship application by introducing the concept of technology addiction and behavioral change. The app is also a literal ad for Calm, too, as it serves up an ad at the bottom of the screen pointing to the meditation app, which recently raised an additional $578,000 in new funding.


Comcast calls rumor that it disconnects Tor users “wildly inaccurate” – Comcast has lately found itself issuing public apologies on a somewhat regular basis as subscribers share tales of horrible customer service. But the latest accusation leveled against Comcast—that it is threatening to disconnect customers who use the anonymity-providing Tor browser—hasn’t been backed by convincing evidence that it’s happening. And Comcast dismisses the rumor as “wildly inaccurate.”

DisplayPort 1.3 details announced – A update to the DisplayPort standard was announced today. DisplayPort 1.3 will allow bandwidth up to 32.4 Gbits/second and connections to much higher resolution displays and multi-monitor setups.


Apple Pay is as safe as your selfies, says PayPal ad – In a newspaper ad reacting to Apple’s new payment system, PayPal suggests it’s not secure. And, well, PayPal is.


PayPal is America. Or at least so this ad seems to imply. And this America doesn’t trust Apple.


Most mobile apps will fail standard security tests, Gartner says – Seventy-five percent of mobile apps will fail the most basic of security tests next year, predicts market researcher Gartner. The market researcher said Sunday that in 2015, the majority of mobile applications — whether in the Android, iOS or Windows Phone ecosystems — will not have basic business-acceptable security protocols in place.

Prevent identity theft with this interactive site – Choice Loans, a financial lending service based in the UK, has put together a site that can help. It’s an interactive guide to various types of identity fraud, complete with 16 things you can do to detect or respond to them. The site covers a broad swath of risks. It shares detailed information about computer viruses and malware, con artists and fraud, credit card fraud, online shopping, card skimming, card-not-present fraud, stolen credit or debit cards, mail theft, man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks, cell phone scams, online password theft, passport fraud, pharming, phishing scams, pyramid schemes, shoulder surfing, and more.


Watch Out! This Suspicious Android App WIll Cost You $365 a Year – How much would you expect to pay for an Android security app? No, don’t say anything, because I’ll tell you that $30 a year is about the maximum. Trust me, it’s my job to know these things. But for ten times that amount, you can let a shifty app sorta-kinda-not-really keep your phone safe! Blue Coat Security shows us what’s under the hood of Armor for Android, and it’s not pretty.

Hacker exploits printer Web interface to install, run Doom – On Friday, a hacker presenting at the 44CON Information Security Conference in London picked at the vulnerability of Web-accessible devices and demonstrated how to run unsigned code on a Canon printer via its default Web interface. After describing the device’s encryption as “doomed,” Context Information Security consultant Michael Jordon made his point by installing and running the first-person shooting classic Doom on a stock Canon Pixma MG6450. Sure enough, the printer’s tiny menu screen can render a choppy and discolored but playable version of id Software’s 1993 hit, the result of Jordon discovering that Pixma printers’ Web interfaces didn’t require any authentication to access.


HarperCollins now uses invisible watermarks to combat ebook piracy – Battling piracy has proven difficult, but that hasn’t yet stopped companies from trying, and as such it isn’t surprising that a couple publishers have turned to a new option in an effort to pinpoint where, exactly, ebook uploads are surfacing from. Using Digimarc technology, the publishers’ ebooks will be tagged with an invisible — and traceable — watermark.

Company News:

Microsoft Buys Minecraft Developer Mojang for $2.5 Billion – Mojang is the developer of the wildly popular block-based game Minecraft. The game has grown far beyond its modest beginnings, and that has made it a target for acquisition–even Microsoft has been snooping around. The rumors started showing up late last week, but earlier today Mojang announced that Microsoft has indeed purchased the company for a whopping $2.5 billion.

Alibaba raises price range of massive IPO due to demand – With its IPO already expected to be record-breaking in the US, the Chinese company will price its stock even higher. That could translate to $25 billion.

Microsoft Confirms Its Windows Event Will Take Place On September 30th – Microsoft today confirmed its correctly rumored Windows event that will take place on September 30 in San Francisco. The event is widely expected to include a release of the technical preview of Windows 9, the successor to the controversial Windows 8.x operating system that was released in 2012, along with the Surface line of tablets.

Netflix launches in France, faces legal, cultural hurdles – Netflix has just launched in France, but it might be getting a cold shoulder. Because of its pride and focus on its local film and TV productions, both French industry players and lawmakers are looking into how they make the video-streaming giant play by the country’s rules and give due important to French and European content.

Apple Sells 4M iPhone 6 And 6 Plus Pre-Orders In Opening 24 Hours – That’s twice the number of pre-orders achieved in 24 hours by the iPhone 5 back in 2012, which managed two million pre-orders in its initial day of pre-sales. Apple didn’t publicly release pre-order numbers for the initial day of iPhone 5s and 5c sales last year, but estimates pegged them at somewhere around 2.2 million according to some analyst projections.

Google wants to test-fly drones in New Mexico – Google has requested the ability to flight-test their Titan drones from the FCC, which they previously announced would fall under the auspice of Project Loon. In a letter to the FCC, Google said “These systems may eventually be used to provide Internet connections in remote areas or help monitor environmental damage, such as oil spills or deforestation. The STA [Special Temporary Authority] is needed for demonstration and testing of [REDACTED] in a carefully controlled environment.”

IBM cuts pay by 10% for workers picked for training – Salary cut draws employee ire; management calls it a ‘co-investment in training’.

Games and Entertainment:

Resident Evil Revelations 2 detailed in trailer – The first full-length trailer has arrived for the game Resident Evil Revelations 2. This game will be rolling out with elements from Resident Evil 2, but will move on from that storyline to a new island entirely. This version will star Resident Evil 2’s Claire Redfield and Barry Burton’s daughter Moira. This game will be unveiled in early 2015, according to Capcom, and will NOT be a replacement for Resident Evil 7. Instead it’s more like an offshoot of the series. Resident Evil Revelations 2 will be coming to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC.


‘Minecraft’ creator Notch says selling Mojang to Microsoft was about keeping his sanity – Markus “Notch” Persson, creator of “Minecraft,” has penned a post on his blog saying the decision to sell his studio to Microsoft wasn’t about the money, but about keeping his sanity.


Malware is being spread on Twitch that empties your Steam wallet, armory, and inventory – Been spending a lot of time on Twitch watching those wacky fish searching for Pokemon in the tall grass or nailing each other with Hadoukens in Street Fighter? You may be putting yourself in harm’s way. There’s a nasty piece of malware being spread to Twitch users that can clean out your Steam account. Users are being duped into thinking that a harmless-looking contest entry will reward them with awesome in-game upgrades on Steam. Instead of putting anything in to you Steam inventory, however, Eskimo immediately sets to work cleaning out your entire digital locker.


Off Topic (Sort of):

A teenager created an $80 breath-to-speech device that costs 100x less than the competition – Specialized computer systems that allow people with movement and speech impairments like ALS or Parkinson’s to speak usually cost thousands of dollars. However, a 16 year-old student from India has created a device that accomplishes the same basic task as these $7,000-10,000 computers for only $80. Arsh Shah Dilbagi calls his invention the TALK because, well, that’s what it lets you do.


The FCC Has Received More Than 3 Million Comments Concerning Net Neutrality – The FCC has received more than 3 million comments concerning the current net neutrality notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). That figure is dramatically higher than the previously reported 1.5 million figure that was released last week. 3 million comments deep, the public has said its piece. What the FCC will do with the collected public opinion isn’t clear.

8 truths and myths of driverless cars – For decades, humans have dreamed of driverless vehicles. From the Jetsons to Minority Report, we’ve gotten a certain idea of how those cars should function and how the world could be if they existed. Driverless cars, however, aren’t science fiction. That said, we took a look at some of the common misconceptions about driverless cars, along with truths that are good to keep in mind.

MIT researchers take cheetah robot out for a run without a leash – MIT researchers have released a video of a robot they’re calling “cheetah” making its way across campus. An earlier robot that was also called cheetah was part of a DARPA/Boston Dynamics (now owned by Google) collaboration that was notable for its speed. The MIT version is notable for ditching the tethers that supplied power to it—it goes for runs using on-board battery power and control logic.


Rosetta’s comet landing site chosen, harpoons will deploy November 11 – The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the precise location on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko that its Philae lander aboard the Rosetta probe will attempt to touch down. The team says site J on the comet’s “head” region won out because it’s scientifically interesting and less risky than the alternatives. The action is currently scheduled to begin on November 11th. Yes, they sent Rosetta to P67 to do more than take amazing selfies.


Philadelphia Is Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession – The City of Brotherly Love is decriminalizing marijuana possession and public consumption, ending a drug policy that has disproportionately targeted African Americans and Latinos in Philadelphia for decades. After a long summer of negotiations between Mayor Michael Nutter and supporters of Councilman James Kenney’s decriminalization bill, the mayor agreed to sign the legalization measure, which will take effect October 20. Support from Philly cops, African American community organizations, and black media outlets helped forge the decriminalization law that passed 13-3 through the city council — a margin that would have overridden a potential mayoral veto.

Modder turns Xbox One into Xbook One laptop – Modder Ed Jarick describes himself as a “self-taught engineer,” and has a history of turning Xbox 360s into “laptops.” Now, with the advent of a new console generation he’s gone and given an Xbox One the portable treatment. Though to call this thing portable is a bit of a misnomer, maybe. The Xbook One is less a laptop and more an Xbox bolted onto a ship anchor. The device uses the innards of an Xbox One, some fans, 3D-printed parts, and an enormous 22″ 1080p LCD monitor.


Aquaponic Garden gives new life to an aquarium – The AquaSprouts Aquarium Aquaponic Garden is an indoor garden that is a self-contained ecosystem. You feed the fish, the fish-waste feeds the plants and you eat what is grown from the garden. It’s a win-win-win. The Kickstarter project is designed to work with a standard 10-gallon aquarium. It consists of three main components: legs, a grow bed and a light bar (that need not be installed for those with sufficient lighting). A reward level is also available that includes a glass aquarium.


Something to think about:

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

–   Mark Twain

Today’s Free Downloads:

Auslogics Duplicate File Finder – Auslogics Duplicate File Finder will find and remove duplicate files so you won’t experience lack of free disk space!

Auslogics Duplicate File Finder has the MD5 search engine which allows you to find duplicate files by content, regardless other match criteria. It would be helpful, for example, when two identical mp3 tracks or video files have different names. Give Auslogics Duplicate File Finder a try to see what it’s really capable of!


Improve computer performance by deleting duplicate files

Identical files not only waste your hard disk space, but also may cause system slowdowns. By deleting duplicate files you can reduce time needed to defragment your hard drives and minimize time used by antivirus to scan your computer.

Sort and organize your media collections

Media files collections, such as music, video, images and photos, often become the primary source of identical files. If you have a music collection of several hundreds or even thousands mp3-files, you may want to sort them by deleting identical tracks.

With Auslogics Duplicate File Finder you can organize your media files and increase free disk space needed to enlarge your collection.

Find duplicate files by content!

Auslogics Duplicate File Finder has the MD5 search engine which allows the program to search for duplicate files by content, regardless of other match criteria. It would be helpful, for example, when two identical mp3 tracks or video files have different names.

CDBurnerXP – CDBurnerXP is a free application to burn CDs and DVDs, including Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs. This is the installer version, CDBurnerXP Portable can be downloaded here.

It also includes the feature to burn and create ISOs, as well as a multilanguage interface. Everyone, even companies, can use it for free. It does not include adware or similar malicious components.


burn all kinds of discs

audio-CDs with or without gaps between tracks

burn and create ISO files

data verification after burning process

create bootable discs

multi-language interface

bin/nrg → ISO converter, simple cover printing and much more!


NirLauncher – NirLauncher is a package of more than 100 portable freeware utilities for Windows, all of them developed for NirSoft Web site during the last few years.


NirLauncher can be used from USB flash drive without need of any installation.

NirLauncher and all the utilities in the package are completely freeware, without any Spyware/Adware/Malware.

NirLauncher package includes variety of tools that you may need for your daily computer use, including utilities to recover lost passwords, to monitor your network, to view and extract cookies, cache, and other information stored by your Web browser, to search files in your system, and more…

For every utility in the package, you can easily run it, view the help file, or jump to the Web page of the utility.

When using it from USB flash drive, the configuration of every utility is saved into .cfg file on the flash drive.

On x64 systems, NirLauncher automatically run the x64 version of the utility, when there is a separated x64 version.

NirLauncher also allows to add more software packages in additional to the main NirSoft package.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Questions for New Zealand on Mass Surveillance – Yesterday, we revealed details at The Intercept about the New Zealand government’s secret plan to access data from the country’s main internet cable. The government has since denied that the project was ever completed — but its statements in the past 24 hours have raised more questions that they have answered and deserve some closer scrutiny.

The surveillance project we revealed — named Speargun — was listed as “underway” in classified documents from New Zealand’s GCSB spy agency in March 2012. In early 2013, an NSA document listed the first phase of the project as having been achieved. It noted that the second phase — which would entail inserting covert “metadata probes” — was scheduled to begin later the same year following the passing of a new surveillance law. That law was approved in August 2013.

While publicly New Zealand government officials were reassuring the public that the new law would not lead to an expansion of powers, behind closed doors GCSB was preparing to install its metadata probes — which would have constituted the biggest expansion of GCSB’s surveillance reach in decades.

In response to our story, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (pictured above) has said that the Speargun project was not finalized. What he claims is that the project was instead eventually replaced by a narrower initiative. In a radio interview on Monday morning, Key described this as a toned down version of what he called “mass cyber protection.” What’s now in place, he said, is a “bespoke functionality which an individual company or agency could deploy,” apparently to mitigate cyber attacks.

In a bid to prove this, Key declassified documents later on Monday (after we published our story) that outlined a project called Cortex. Key seemed to think — or perhaps hope — that these documents would kill off any concerns and put the controversy to a swift end. But they fail to address a number of crucial issues — critics have already dismissed them as a “red herring” — and in fact only seem to cloud matters further.

Wikileaks Releases German Spyware That Governments Used To Hack Journalists And Dissidents – As part of its ongoing Spyfiles series of posts, Wikileaks has released the back and front-end systems used by multiple governments to spy on journalists, dissidents, and others. The files appear to be weaponized Windows malware although the software, called FinFisher, also works on OS X.

From the post:

FinFisher (formerly part of the UK based Gamma Group International until late 2013) is a German company that produces and sells computer intrusion systems, software exploits and remote monitoring systems that are capable of intercepting communications and data from OS X, Windows and Linux computers as well as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. FinFisher first came to public attention in December 2011 when WikiLeaks published documents detailing their products and business in the first SpyFiles release.

Three back-end programs route and manage traffic which is sent to FinSpy Master, a collection program. The system can steal keystrokes, Skype conversations, and even watch you via your webcam.

While there is no definitive proof that any one organization is using the software, a list of FinFisher customers leaked as well shows us that Pakistan, Estonia, and Italy (among others) have bought the service.

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange hopes the malware will allow researchers to pinpoint and destroy the command and control structure in the wild and help prevent the software from infecting new users.

Julian Assange on Snowden, disliking Google, and his “inevitable” freedom – It would be too much to say that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange feels optimistic. He’s been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for more than two years now, with cameras and police—”a £3 million surveillance operation,” he calls it—just meters away.

“There’s a sense of inevitability now,” Assange said when we asked if his situation might change.

Assange: “The situation is clarifying politically and legally.”

Ars: “I just want to be clear on this point—are you saying you’re hopeful you’ll be free soon?”

Assange: “I wouldn’t say hopeful. I would say it’s inevitable. It’s inevitable that we will win the diplomatic standoff we’re in now.”

It’s getting late in London, where Assange is doing a barrage of press interviews on the eve his new book, When Google Met Wikileaks (it goes on sale in the US later this week). We called at the agreed upon time, and a man who didn’t identify himself answered the number, which was for a London cell phone. He said call back in five minutes, and only then was the phone finally handed to Assange.

We’re supposed to focus on the book. But first, we want to know what life trapped in the embassy involves—where does he eat, sleep, do laundry? What is the room he’s was in now like?

Australia: Can Snowden finally kill the ‘harmless metadata’ myth? – “Metadata is extraordinarily intrusive. As an analyst, I would prefer to be looking at metadata than looking at content, because it’s quicker and easier, and it doesn’t lie.”

In just two sentences, Edward Snowden nailed the hypocrisy — or perhaps it’s really just stupidity — at the heart of the Australian government’s efforts to sell a mandatory data-retention scheme.

Snowden was appearing via a video link at the Moment of Truth event in New Zealand on Monday night. He was speaking to ardent fans — he scored a standing ovation laced with the tribal whooping of “Yeah!” and “Woo!” before he’d even begun — so he had an easy run. But he also spoke with a clarity that’s hard to argue against.

“If I’m listening to your phone call, you can try to talk around things, you can use code words. But if I’m looking at your metadata, I know which number called which number. I know which computer talked to which computer. And yeah, that [capability to access metadata] exists comprehensively for all the Five Eyes analysts,” Snowden said.

The signals intelligence agencies of all Five Eyes nations — the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand — have access to the NSA’s XKeyscore, a federated search system that deals in metadata captured from the NSA’s interception of international fibre links, as well as other sources.

XKeyscore also searches the last three to five days of content data, Snowden said, and that archive is growing — but that’s another story.

Snowden isn’t the first person to point out that metadata can be more revealing than content. Far from it.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 16, 2014

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

Will iTunes Become the New PayPal?

Guest writer Derek Vaughan walks you through Near Field Communications – a technology that may well make your wallet obsolete.

Imagine buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks and paying for it by simply ‘swiping’ your iPhone past the cashier. In seconds the money is paid to the retailer, and your iTunes account reflects the charge for the coffee. All of this has happened without you ever having to pull out your wallet or purse, and the transaction happens so quickly that you barely break stride on your way out of the store.

Sound like science fiction? Well, it’s not. If things materialize along the current lines iTunes may morph from an entertainment distribution platform into a full fledged banking system more akin to PayPal than to Napster.

This type of financial transaction will be enabled by a technology named Near Field Communications, or just NFC for short. As described by Wikipedia, NFC is ”a set of short-range wireless technologies, typically requiring a distance of 4 cm or less. NFC operates at 13.56 MHz and at rates ranging from 106 kbit/s to 848 kbit/s. NFC always involves an initiator and a target; the initiator actively generates an RF field that can power a passive target. This enables NFC targets to take very simple form factors such as tags, stickers, key fobs, or cards that do not require batteries.” In other words, NFC can securely transmit and receive data related to a purchase at a retail store – as long as the purchasing device is close enough to the receiver (and one assumes – that the buyer’s account has sufficient funds).

What brings NFC and iTunes together is the hardware currently being developed by Apple and enabled by iTunes. This would possibly include iPhones, iPads, iPods, and MAC computers.

A number of sources including PC Magazine are now reporting that the next generation iPhone – presumably named the iPhone 5 – will include NFC and be able to transact via NFC by charging the equipment owner’s iTunes account. The article goes on to quote a source familiar with the situation, ”From what I hear, it is possible the iPhone 5 will include NFC. An entrepreneur who is working on a top-secret NFC product told me today that he believes the iPhone 5 will have NFC and cited a friend who works at Apple as a reliable source for the information.”

Daniel Foster, an expert in online transactions and security with dedicated server company 34SP.com postulates, ”With the walled garden approach that Apple has developed coupled with the unparalleled growth of both the iPhone and iPad – Apple must be taken seriously if the company enters the transaction marketplace. Remember, many of the emerging market countries have yet to adopt the iPhone as well. The growth opportunities in India and China alone are enormous.”

So just how big is the marketplace for these types of transactions? A recent article by Bloomberg quotes PayPal President Scott Thompson from remarks made during a meeting with financial analysts. Mr. Thompson predicts that PayPal will double revenues and post sales of up to $7 billion by 2013. That would compare to sales of $3.4 billion in 2009. These revenues reflect only 12 percent of online purchases – and just a small fraction of offline purchases. Therefore, if Apple can enter this market and do for wireless transactions what it did for buying music – then $7 billion doesn’t seem at all unreasonable.

Although the path looks bright for deploying NFC technologies, not everyone is convinced that NFC will prevail in the future. Lou Honick is CEO of Host Merchant Services, a leading credit card transaction service. Mr. Honick notes, ”Near field communication technology holds significant promise for enabling mobile payments, however it comes with some significant caveats given the companies that are deploying it. Electronic payments have all but displaced cash, and while there are costs and drawbacks, businesses are forced to accept the bad with the good. Also, sixteen digit credit card numbers are really no longer adequate for the job they were intended to do because of fraud concerns.

NFC and mobile applications help solve this problem by adding enhanced security and encryption to transactions. However, while many merchants dream of breaking the Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express oligopoly on forms of payment processing, and NFC certainly opens up alternatives, we have to be careful that we aren’t simply trading Visa and Mastercard for Apple and Google or even worse, AT&T and Verizon without any significant savings and benefits to the merchant. While it makes sense to move to an application based payment platform facilitated by NFC, it would be of far greater benefit to consumers and merchant to get there with an open and flexible platform that encouraged competition.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that is the direction we are headed, and as much as I like Apple products, we all know how they feel about being open and flexible.

Whatever the final outcome, look for even more interest in NFC in the coming months as Android phones get into the act, and the mobile carriers themselves develop transactional systems to capture a bit of the payment system marketplace. With billions at stake, expect to see things move quickly in the wireless transaction market.

For more information on this technology – checkout The New York Times.

About the Author:

Derek Vaughan is a web hosting industry veteran and expert. Mr. Vaughan has architected the marketing growth of several prominent web hosting success stories leading to acquisition including Affinity Internet, Inc., Aplus.Net and HostMySite.com.

Prior to his entry into the web hosting industry, Mr. Vaughan was responsible for online marketing at The Walt Disney Company where he marketed ecommerce for the ESPN.com and NASCAR.com brands. Mr. Vaughan received his M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University and currently serves on the HostingCon Advisory Board.

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Comments Off on Will iTunes Become the New PayPal?

Filed under Apple, Connected Devices, Financial, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Money Management, Point of View, Software

Another PayPal Fraud Alert

image I quite like PayPal. Through PayPal I can receive payment for my services, spend that money on the Web; transfer those funds to my bank account, and complete a host of additional financial transactions.

But (there’s always that “but”), PayPal is one online service that’s constantly targeted by email scammers and fraud artists. PayPal email scams have been with us virtually since PayPal came on the scene in 1999.

This morning I received the following email, purportedly from PayPal, in which the spam scammer attempts to convince me that this is the genuine article.

Just like most of these type of emails, this one contains the usual misspelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors.

“Very important message from PayPal! Please download the attachment and read and complete the form to avoid suspension.

PayPal protects its community and sometimes we verify information that we “belive” does not match credit card billing address or another IP has been used to login into your “paypal” account.

PayPal is an “Ebay” company.

Thank you. PayPal ID: 7622”

But, as the following screen capture shows, the reply form looks very professional.

PayPal Scam 2

It looks convincing enough, that some new PayPal users might easily be taken in. I know that you won’t be deceived by this type of clumsy attempt to defraud, but you would be surprised how often reasonably intelligent people are.

In this case the following issues raised immediate questions.

No personalized greeting. What – they forgot my name?

The reply form asks for information that I initially supplied to PayPal when I activated my account. What – they lost this information?

The reply form asks me to provide my password. Isn’t this supposed to be kept secret even from PayPal?

Common sense advice: If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of any email message and its attachment, delete them.

Be kind to your friends, relatives, and associates, particularly those who are new Internet users, and let them know that there is an epidemic of this type of scam on the Internet. In doing so, you help raise the level of protection for all of us.

Ask your friends, relatives, and associates to keep the following tips in mind  while on the Internet:

Don’t click links in emails or social networking sites. If they come from a known source, type them on the browser’s address bar. If they come from an untrusted source, simply ignore them.

Don’t open emails that come from untrusted sources.

Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin.Keep your computer protected.

Install a security solution and keep it up-to-date.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Email, email scams, Internet Security Alerts, Windows Tips and Tools

Gmail Service Center and PayPal Spam Scams Are Back!

The old “Due to the congestion in all Gmail users and removal of all unused Gmail Accounts” scam, is making a reappearance. This scam has been around for years, and every so often it makes its way back.

This occasional reappearance tells me one thing – this scam pays off for the cyber-criminals who are behind it. Since new users are continuously signing on to the Internet, they are essentially a new crop of potential victims.

To an inexperienced user, this could look like an official email, and the enclosed link makes it simple to get this problem solved with just a mouse click. What could be easier than that?

Gmail scam

If you receive an email that is supposedly from “Gmail Service Centers”, and it addresses you in any way other than your name (Dear Valued Member, for example), it’s a scam. Google is not likely to forget your name, right?

At one and the same time, the following email purportedly from PayPal, is making the rounds once again. Similar to the Gmail scam it opens with a generic salutation – in this case,  “Dear PayPal Member”.

Paypal scam

PayPal is familiar with this type of scam, and has issued the following warning:

“PayPal will never send an email with the greeting “Dear PayPal User” or “Dear PayPal Member.” Real PayPal emails will address you by your first and last name or the business name associated with your PayPal account. If you believe you have received a fraudulent email, please forward the entire email—including the header information – to spoof@paypal.com”.

Be kind to your friends, relatives, and associates who are new computer users and let them know about this type of scam. In that way, it raises the level of security for all of us.

Advise them to:

Consider every email, telephone call, or text message requesting confirmation of personal and financial information as a scam.

Not open emails that come from un-trusted sources.

Not run files received via email, without making sure of their origin.

Not click links in emails. If they come from a known source, to type them on the browser’s address bar. If they come from an un-trusted source, to simply ignore them, as they could redirect to a web site designed to download malware.

Keep their computer protected by installing a security solution and keeping it up-to-date.

Report suspicious e-mails as Spam.

To see how cyber criminals target new users, and new email accounts read “Email Spammers Are Smarter Than You Think”, on this site.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, Google, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Windows Tips and Tools

Give Me Your PayPal ID – Then We’ll Make a Deal!

image Like many Bloggers I expect, I get a huge volume of emails requesting link exchanges. In almost every case I reject the proposed exchange – I’m only interested in free sites that serve the public good. As well, I’m only interested in sites that publish articles that are well researched, well written and that have endured the ups and downs of blogging.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to be an elitist. I am however, entitled to set my own standards. So when I get an site link request like the following, my spam/scam radar automatically switches on.

“Hello Webmaster,

I’m a webmaster for http://www.xxxxxxxxx.com website,  I’ve found your website information and advice to be a very good fit for our visitors so could you please give us the best price for a site wide link on your esteemed website for a period of half and 1 Year? We will make payments Via PayPal so if interested, please mention your PayPal id.

If we are happy with your price, then we will send you the Link details that you can place on your website and we will make the payments to the PayPal id provided by you”.

So is this a scam? You decide based on the following:

They don’t know my name.

They know nothing about my site – no specifics mentioned.

For a period of half and 1 Year? – Awkward phrasing is a hallmark of spammers.

Esteemed website? Sure, flattery works – right?

Incomplete contact information – no phone number or address.

Most importantly; why would they need my PayPal ID? I think you can figure that part out.

Spammers, scammers and cyber-crooks, come in all flavors and sizes, and use every conceivable social engineering trick to swindle the gullible. I suspect that at least some  inexperienced Bloggers – flattered by the attention (wow, someone thinks my site is good enough to pay me for a link!!), will, or have fallen, for this fairly transparent scam.

One last note: This scam appears to be linked to a legitimate business site, which is why I have blanked the site address.

I’m not unreasonable in considering link exchanges – just careful. In fact, in the last few days I have added 2 new sites to my Blogroll, PC Magazine – Windows 7 Tips, (at their request), and Scoroncocolo Tech Pages. Both sites are well worth checking out.

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Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, internet scams, Social Blogging, Windows Tips and Tools