Tag Archives: security

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 2, 2015

The FCC’s net neutrality rules: 5 things you need to know;  Science finds the best place to hide from zombies;  How to report a suicidal post on Facebook;  Google pulls out of gaping Blogger smut black hole;  iOS 8.2 tipped for release on March 2nd;  Prepare your Android device for disasters with this master plan;  Bad with names? 2 Android apps try to help;  Six ways to make your iOS or Android phone easier on the eyes;  Hands On With The Samsung Galaxy S6 And S6 Edge;  Apple products no longer welcome in the Chinese government;  These Are the Best Weather Apps for Your iPhone;  Illustrators Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy;  AVG unveils invisibility glasses;  Man blames third-degree burns on exploding iPhone;  White House Drops ‘Consumer Privacy Bill Of Rights Act’ Draft;  Aomei Partition Assistant (free);  Junkware Removal Tool (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The FCC’s net neutrality rules: 5 things you need to know – Advocates for open access to the Internet were popping champagne corks on Thursday after the Federal Communications Commission voted in favor of reclassifying broadband Internet as a public utility. In addition to regulating fixed broadband lines that go into your home, the FCC vote also extended public utility rules to mobile broadband for the first time. The FCC vote means that Internet service providers (ISPs) will be required by law to respect the principles of net neutrality. But what exactly does that mean, and why are so many people celebrating the FCC’s ruling while others are cursing it? Here’s a quick explainer.

How to report a suicidal post on Facebook – Facebook has launched a new feature aimed directly at helping those who may be going through hard times.

Is it time to force PC makers to disclose how much they make from crapware? – When it preinstalled the Superfish adware on consumer PCs, Lenovo sold its customers out for a pittance, but it still hasn’t had to disclose how much it received. Maybe it’s time for a Truth in Labeling act to shine a light on this dark corner of the PC market.

Google pulls out of gaping Blogger smut black hole – Monday: Get rid of this filth … By Friday: Oh my God, where have ALL the blogs gone? The ad giant on Thursday said it will continue to allow randy netizens to post amateur smut, reversing an earlier decision forbidding X-rated blog posts unless they were deemed arty and acceptable to Mountain View’s censors. Educational posts would have apparently escaped the blog burning, but everything else was to be scrubbed clean from public view. Today, Google has done a full 180 on banishing titillating blogs.

Bad with names? 2 Android apps try to help – Many of us have trouble relating faces to names — which can be disastrous in a business situation. Humin and Social Recall try to help with that.

iOS 8.2 tipped for release on March 2nd – If recent reports are true, Apple may be gearing up to release iOS 8.2 as soon as March 2nd, or this coming Monday. As the latest version of the iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS 8.2 has already seen five developer betas released since November. The new update has already been revealed as containing some support for the Apple Watch, but full compatibility with the wearable may not come until iOS 8.3, which is currently expected to be released in April.

Prepare your Android device for disasters with this master plan – When tragedy strikes your electronic devices (and there’s no way around that inevitability), will you be ready? Will your data be backed up? Will the process of purchasing another phone be as simple as firing it up, associating it with your Google account, and waiting for the data to sync? This master plan will cover backing up: apps, app data, photos, call/SMS logs, and miscellaneous. I want to do this without relying on a single, third-party solution (though there will be third-party solutions to back up the likes of call and SMS logs).

These Apps Will Make Filing Your Taxes Way Less Painful – Let me start by saying that I am not a tax professional. But I am a professional who pays his taxes, and I highly recommend getting expert assistance in navigating the bureaucratic machinations that are the state and federal income tax systems. Still, if you are planning on going it alone (or you want to get organized enough that your accountant doesn’t charge you a bundle), there are many ways technology can help you file your taxes. Let’s take a look:

First look: Vivaldi browser – Vivaldi, a Web browser now in tech preview, caters to power users who expect more from their browsers, letting them interact with content in new and exciting ways. Created by former Opera developers, Vivaldi is built on Chromium, the same platform used for Google Chrome, Comodo Dragon, and, of course, Opera. On the surface, Vivaldi looks similar to other browsers, but a plethora of tools lie beneath that unassuming interface. Here are our six favorites.

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Six ways to make your iOS or Android phone easier on the eyes – Even as the displays on our iPhones and Android phones get bigger and bigger, the type on our screens remains stubbornly small—so small, indeed, that you may find yourself squinting whenever you glance at your handset. Give your aching eyes a break. Read on for six settings that’ll make your iPhone or Android screen a bit easier to read, from boosting the size of text to zooming your display with your fingertips.

YO! This messaging app has a lot more to say for itself, even offline – This year showgoers will be able to try out a new Android app, called YO!, that can send text messages, photos and videos over Wi-Fi to other users nearby without any Internet connection whatsoever, making it a true peer-to-peer messaging app. And as long as they’re prepared to disable certain security settings on their phone, they won’t even need to log on to the Play store to get it: Anyone with YO! installed on their phone can share it with other would-be users over Bluetooth.

Rumor: Tinder Plus Launching Monday (for $10/Month) – So, what does the monthly investment get you? For starters, Tinder Plus will come with a somewhat-helpful “Rewind” feature that will allow you to go back and take a second look at the last person you swiped off your screen—a person you were perhaps initially uninterested in, but one who you might suddenly have second thoughts about. (That, or perhaps you were a bit too quick on the trigger finger, and accidentally swipe-declined someone that you would actually be interested in.) Tinder Plus will also remove ads from Tinder—ads that don’t yet exist, but are allegedly going to hit the service this month.

SanDisk new microSD card packs a whopping 200GB of storage – The new card is a 56 percent jump on the current highest capacity MicroSD, a 128GB card. The card supports data transfer at up to 90MB per second, or around 1,200 photos per minute. It will be available worldwide in the second quarter for $400.

Hands On With The Samsung Galaxy S6 And S6 Edge – Samsung has two brand new smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge. It’s a first for the company, in terms of revealing two different versions of its primary flagship on stage at the same time, and we got a chance to try both of them out to see how they perform.  The resulting experience was impressive in both cases, and while the biggest changes were on the design front, Samsung’s software shifts also came out as very promising overall.

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$40 Firefox-Powered Orange Klif Also Includes Voice, Text, Data – Before you get too excited, you should know that the Firefox OS-powered Orange Klif smartphone is primarily geared towards Africa. That said, $40 for a smartphone that includes calls, text, and data for six months is still something to get excited about. I got a chance to check it out after Mozilla’s press conference at Mobile World Congress.

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Firefox OS coming to U.S., developed markets in 2016 – Firefox OS, the smartphone operating system from Mozilla targeted at low-cost smartphones in emerging markets, is coming to more developed markets. A new project with carriers in the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Spain will see high-spec phones developed for release in 2016. But rather than challenging Android and iOS head on, the project will target something that’s been largely out of fashion in recent years: flip phones and sliders.

Microsoft announces the Lumia 640 and 640 XL – Microsoft has just formally announced the Lumia 640 and 640 XL at their Mobile World Conference 2015 presentation. The smartphones are not exactly high-end, but the specs are pretty interesting.

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Microsoft unveils a foldable Bluetooth keyboard – The Lumia 640 isn’t the only hardware device that Microsoft unveiled today, as the company showed off on-stage a foldable keyboard device, designed to be taken on the road.

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Brazilian judge rules for a nationwide ban of Whatsapp – A Brazilian judge has ordered a nationwide temporary ban of WhatsApp following the company’s refusal to help in an investigation related to child pornography. Despite the ban, it is working normally.

VLC is now a true Universal App across all of Windows – VideoLAN is likely one of the best builders of quality apps for the Windows Store, and while the development team provides frequent updates to the desktop version of their VLC media player, they usually take their time with the apps. That is not necessarily a bad thing, and today’s news is going to explain that long wait.

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AVG unveils invisibility glasses to defend against facial recognition – AVG has unveiled invisibility glasses as a way for people to protect their online identities. Revealed at Pepcom in Barcelona, Spain, the antivirus provider says the privacy wearable can make it more difficult for cameras and facial recognition technologies to get a “clear view of your identity.” Designed by AVG Innovation Labs, the glasses — chunkiness and dubious fashion aside — uses both technology and select materials to blur the gaze of cameras.

Pointing up   Crystal Ball gazing – The fascist crazies, including Australia’s Tony Abbott, Canada’s Stephen Harper, and of course the crazy-in-chief, Barak Obama, will attempt to sabotage this technology. Far fetched? Just wait.

These Are the Best Weather Apps for Your iPhone – Opening this story with a weather-related adage or aphorism would have been great, if Mother Nature’s approval ratings weren’t currently quite so low. But guess what — it’s here, and we’re all white walkers. So don’t bother making chit-chat by talking about the weather, tap about it instead. No matter the conditions, these ten apps will keep you covered, because believe it or not, it can actually get worse than this.

Security:

Personal data on 50,000 Uber drivers exposed in breach – Uber discovered a possible breach of its systems in September, and a subsequent investigation revealed an unauthorized third party had accessed one of its databases four months earlier, the company said. The files accessed held the names and license plate numbers of about 50,000 current and former drivers, which Uber described as a “small percentage” of the total. About 21,000 of the affected drivers are in California. The company has several hundred thousand drivers altogether.

How does the security of 3 mag-stripe credit card alternatives stack up? – Several electronic and mobile payment options have become available, but most of us in the U.S. are still using plain-vanilla credit and debit cards with magnetic stripes. They use technology that dates to the first Nixon administration. That’s not a problem in itself; I have no problem with time-tested security measures that work effectively. But just look around: Data breaches are everywhere, and those magnetic-stripe cards are often implicated.

How a Blu-ray disc could install malware on your computer – A pair of vulnerabilities found in hardware and software for playing Blu-ray discs might come in handy for secret snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency. Stephen Tomkinson of NCC Group, a U.K.-based security consultancy, engineered a Blu-ray disc which detects the type of player the disc is running on and then picks one of two exploits to land malware on a computer. He presented the research at the Securi-Tay conference at Abertay University in Scotland on Friday.

National Cyber Awareness System: Vulnerability Summary for the Week of February 23, 2015 – The US-CERT Cyber Security Bulletin provides a summary of new vulnerabilities that have been recorded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) National Vulnerability Database (NVD) in the past week. The NVD is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) / United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). For modified or updated entries, please visit the NVD, which contains historical vulnerability information.

Pointing up   I’ve not linked to this weekly report in the past since I’m not convinced that it necessarily has value for an average user – looks pretty scary close up. Still, if you’re a regular reader here,  I’m hopeful that you’ll balance the incredible daily hype pushed out by the tech industry with the reality of this weekly report. You may find it useful to subscribe to this resource.

It seems to me that at one time, some years back, we were prohibited from publishing this data. But, I’m probably “misremembering” – which seems all the rage these days.   Smile

Company News:

Sailfish Secure wants to be an Android alternative safe from spies’ prying eyes – Keeping your communications locked away from prying eyes, Sailfish Secure is a new version of the niche mobile operating system that’s designed to bring peace of mind to businesses, government officials, and privacy-minded phone fans. Sailfish developer Jolla has partnered with fellow Finns SSH Communications Security to build the privacy-focused software. It’s based on the Jolla’s Sailfish OS, bolstered by SSH’s communication encryption and key management.

Ericsson sues Apple, wants ITC to block iPhone sales in the U.S. Market – This week has not been the best for the Cupertino tech giant, but it’s about to get even worse. Ericsson, world pioneer in mobile technology and wireless communications, is filing seven lawsuits against Apple in a U.S. court, accusing it of infringing on 41 of its patents, including some “that are essential to the 2G and 4G/LTE standards”, as well as patents related to the component design of Apple products, UI, location services, and iOS features. If having to pay half a billion dollars to Smartflash sounds bad, now Ericsson is asking the International Trade Commission to ban sales of Apple’s iPhone and iPad in the U.S. market. Kasim Alfalahi, Ericsson’s chief intellectual property officer, stated that “we have offered them a license; they have a turned it down.”

Google rumoured to have chosen a Chinese OEM for the next Nexus – Google’s Nexus program is set to get a new manufacturer as a latest rumour has revealed that the next smartphone will be made by a Chinese OEM with a probable launch in the second half of the year.

Apple products no longer welcome in the Chinese government – China has dropped some of the big companies from its list of approved technology providers for use in government departments to reduce dependence on American technology.

Google Buys Rights to .App Top-Level Domain for $25M – Google prevailed in ICANN’s public auction for the top-level domain, paying just a hair over $25M for the rights to .app. It’s reportedly the highest purchase price yet paid for a top-level domain in an ICANN auction. It was more more than triple the price of the previous record-holder, Dot Tech LLC and its $6.8 million winning bid this past September for the rights to .tech.

Yahoo gains U.S. search share on the back of Firefox – Since November 2014, when Yahoo partnered with Mozilla to make its search engine the default for U.S. Firefox users, Yahoo’s share has grown by 2.8 percentage points, representing a 28% increase. The continued upward trend in Yahoo’s share identified by comScore was similar to the one drawn by Irish analytics firm StatCounter, which earlier in February pointed to a second-consecutive month of gains by the Sunnyvale, Calif. company.

Google+ divided into Photos and Streams, with new boss – Google’s social network gets a new leader in Brad Horowitz, and likely will see the Hangouts communication service stand alone, too.

Games and Entertainment:

This Is the Incredible Game President Underwood Is Obsessed With in House of Cards Season 3 – Francis Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s Machiavellian character on the Netflix series House of Cards, has always allow himself a few good video games. These have tended toward the violent, first-person shooter variety. But in season three, which became available on the streaming service on Friday, a beautiful, somewhat esoteric indie game for mobile devices becomes a minor plot point. That game is Monument Valley, created by UsTwo. The title—available here for Android and here for iOS— was ranked one of TIME’s 10 best games of 2014.

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Mad Catz Surfr combines QWERTY keys with game controls (pictures) – Mad Catz’s latest gaming controller packs a mini QWERTY keyboard for typing to your Android TV box.

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HTC partners with Valve for a virtual reality headset—the Re Vive – The Vive appears to be a standalone VR headset for a PC. We don’t know many details about how it works, but HTC says it “features high-quality graphics, 90-frames-per-second video, and incredible audio fidelity.” The headset uses two 1200×1080 displays, one for each eye, and the relatively high resolution should help cut down on the “screen door effect” you got with the original Oculus Rift developer kit. HTC will also be producing “wireless VR controllers” along with the headset. A Developer Edition will be available in the spring, with a Consumer Edition coming “by the end of 2015.”

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PC version of latest Resident Evil loses local co-op available on console – Capcom has taken to the Steam Community page for the game to “apologize to our Resident Evil Revelations 2 PC players who purchased the game and expected to have local co-op as a feature.” The company says the local co-op feature was never intended for the PC version, and initially left in the Steam description as an oversight. “This was an unintentional error and again, we apologize for the confusion this may have caused.” While Capcom initially said no such PC co-op was planned, it now says it’s “currently looking into the matter and potential solutions and we hope to have new information to share very soon, so please stay tuned. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

Lego Star Wars TV special to retell entire film saga – Just incase you haven’t had enough collaboration between the Star Wars and Lego franchises yet, a new special from Disney will have re-watching the entire first two trilogies, albeit in plastic brick form. Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales is part of Disney’s effort to promote and draw in new audiences for the December release of the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. Set to premiere on the Disney XD channel, the miniseries will be released as five episodes, each 22 minutes long.

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Sid Meier’s Starships hands-on: A stripped down Civ and a complicated board game – Sid Meier’s Starships comes out on March 12, which isn’t that far away. As such, I don’t really want to delve too deeply into the game because, well, I’m going to have to write the whole thing up again in two weeks when we review it. But I did spend about an hour tooling around with a pre-release build earlier this week, and it only seems right to give you an idea how this spin-off strategy game (of sorts) is shaping up.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Illustrators Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy – Leonard Nimoy was the coolest guy ever. In the wake of his passing, a lot of the more obscure things that he did have been brought up. Sure, he anchored Star Trek and was easily the best actor on the original show. He also directed the best Star Trek movie and appeared on bothThe Simpsons and Futurama. He released some notable records and wrote an autobiography called I Am Not Spock which he followed up with I Am Spock. I asked illustrators to draw pictures memorializing the late actor. Here are fifteen. It would have been good if at least one of these drawings didn’t Nimoy as Spock, but it’s fun to draw him as Spock and I think he would have been fine with it.

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ISIS Supporters Issue Death Threats Against Jack Dorsey And Twitter Employees – While it is difficult to ascertain if the threat was actually written by people directly involved with ISIS, Twitter is taking it seriously. The company told Buzzfeed that “our security team is investigating the veracity of these threats with relevant law enforcement officials.” TechCrunch has contacted the company for more information and will update this post if we hear back from them. Twitter’s terms of service allow users post “potentially inflammatory content,” but it draws the line at “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” The company has also cooperated with the British government to delete content which violates UK terror laws.

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Olixar Light Bulb review: A Bluetooth enabled speaker that also illuminates the room – Olixar brings us an affordable Bluetooth speaker that doesn’t require batteries in a convenient light bulb package. But does it compare to a dedicated Bluetooth speaker? Let’s find out.

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Man blames third-degree burns on exploding iPhone – A New Jersey man says that he is unable to work after his iPhone 5C emitted a popping noise and caused a burning sensation in his pocket. Johnson reportedly spent 10 days in a burn unit. He had second- and third-degree burns on the inside of his thigh.

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A little too close to “home”, I’d say!    Smile

IKEA announces tables, lamps with wireless charging – We might be in the midst of the wearables boom right now, but a safe bet for the next technology to take off in the next few years is wireless charging. Thanks to features from a handful of smartphone manufacturers, as well as several charging accessory makers, wireless charging seems prime to be popular among consumers. Furniture retailer IKEA is betting on it, as they’re just announced a new line of lamps and tables that feature integrated wireless charging.

Science finds the best place to hide from zombies – When the undead threaten to turn your cerebrum to caviar, where do you run? A new study confirms what you might already suspect, and even offers a specific destination.

Something to think about:

“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a lifetime’s experience.”

–    Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Aomei Partition Assistant – Partition Assistant is a comprehensive disk partition solution, which includes a Partition Manager and Extend Partition Wizard for Windows 7/XP/2000/Vista and Server 2008/2003/2000. Besides, the magic partition utility can support all hard disks recognized by Windows such as IDE, SATA, SCSI, Hardware RAID, USB external disks, Fire wire disks etc. Partition Assistant provides powerful and professional features to manage disk partition including:

Extend NTFS system partition without restarting computer.

Resize and Move partition to optimize disk space management.

Extend Partition Wizard help you step by step expand the size of your selected partition.

Merge two or more partitions into a larger one.

Split one partition into two or more.

Create, Delete and Format partition.

Convert file system from FAT to NTFS.

Wipe permanently sensitive data to anti-recovery.

Repartition by drag & drop mouse on a disk panel.

Partition Assistant is a partition magic alternative. It has been widely used by many companies as well as individuals all around the globe with fine reputation, and the Home Edition is absolutely free of charge for personal users. You will be amazed by its cool functions and would like to recommand to your friends after you try our top-notch technologies.

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Junkware Removal Tool – Junkware Removal Tool is a security utility that searches for and removes common adware, toolbars, and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) from your computer. A common tactics among freeware publishers is to offer their products for free, but bundle them with PUPs in order to earn revenue. This tool will help you remove these types of programs.

Junkware Removal Tool has the ability to remove the following types of programs:

Ask Toolbar

Babylon

Blekko

Claro / iSearch

Conduit

Crossrider

DealPly

Delta

Facemoods / Funmoods

Findgala

Globasearch

Hao123

iLivid

Iminent

IncrediBar

MocaFlix

MyPC Backup

MyWebSearch

PerformerSoft

Privitize

Qvo6

Searchqu

Snap Do

Swag Bucks

Wajam

Web Assistant

WhiteSmoke

Zugo

And many more…

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

White House Drops ‘Consumer Privacy Bill Of Rights Act’ Draft – In a late-Friday release, the White House published a draft of its proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. You can read the full text here. The bill sets out to, in its own words, “establish baseline protections for individual privacy in the commercial arena and to foster timely, flexible implementations of these protections through enforceable codes of conduct developed by diverse stakeholders.”

The proposal details what an individual should be able to expect from a service that they use, including how security is managed. It also deals with data deletion, and the revocation of consent on the part of a user. A service would have 45 days to comply with a deletion request.

Also enumerated is a restriction of what sort of information that can be collected:

Canada: Open letter to Parliament: Amend C-51 or kill it – The following is an open letter addressed to all members of Parliament and signed by more than 100 Canadian professors of law and related disciplines.

Dear Members of Parliament,

Please accept this collective open letter as an expression of the signatories’ deep concern that Bill C-51 (which the government is calling the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015) is a dangerous piece of legislation in terms of its potential impacts on the rule of law, on constitutionally and internationally protected rights, and on the health of Canada’s democracy.

Beyond that, we note with concern that knowledgeable analysts have made cogent arguments not only that Bill C-51 may turn out to be ineffective in countering terrorism by virtue of what is omitted from the bill, but also that Bill C-51 could actually be counter-productive in that it could easily get in the way of effective policing, intelligence-gathering and prosecutorial activity. In this respect, we wish it to be clear that we are neither “extremists” (as the Prime Minister has recently labelled the Official Opposition for its resistance to Bill C-51) nor dismissive of the real threats to Canadians’ security that government and Parliament have a duty to protect. Rather, we believe that terrorism must be countered in ways that are fully consistent with core values (that include liberty, non-discrimination, and the rule of law), that are evidence-based, and that are likely to be effective.

The scope and implications of Bill C-51 are so extensive that it cannot be, and is not, the purpose of this letter to itemize every problem with the bill. Rather, the discussion below is an effort to reflect a basic consensus over some (and only some) of the leading concerns, all the while noting that any given signatory’s degree of concern may vary item by item. Also, the absence of a given matter from this letter is not meant to suggest it is not also a concern.

We are grateful for the service to informed public debate and public education provided, since Bill C-51 was tabled, by two highly respected law professors — Craig Forcese of the University of Ottawa and Kent Roach of the University of Toronto — who, combined, have great expertise in national security law at the intersection of constitutional law, criminal law, international law and other sub-disciplines. What follows — and we limit ourselves to five points — owes much to the background papers they have penned, as well as to insights from editorials in the media and speeches in the House of Commons.

Accordingly, we urge all MPs to vote against Bill C-51 for the following reasons:

Pointing up    Once again, The Great White North overshadows The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, in citizen/taxpayer engagement.

Australia: Metadata laws may close piracy loopholes – Even with a parliamentary committee’s last-minute recommendations, Hollywood pirate hunters will still probably use your metadata against you in court.

The piracy code doesn’t grant copyright holders access to your metadata, even after three strikes. It just compels your ISP to comply with a court request to use metadata – your IP address – to find your name and then hand that name over. With the metadata proposal on the table, it seems the copyright holder could actually ask for access to your metadata in any civil piracy case, with Brandis’ blessing. Unlike the piracy code, this wouldn’t necessarily be limited to residental fixed-line connections – eliminating a major loophole.

Copyright holders such as the backers of the Dallas Buyers Club case are already complaining that the piracy code is too narrow for their liking. That won’t be a problem if they can rely on the Attorney-General to let them trawl through your metadata and use it against you in any civil trial.

(Contributed by Mal C.)

How I requested my photographs from the Department of Homeland Security – I have my photograph taken and my fingerprints scanned every time I enter the United States. So do all other foreign nationals. The information is collected under the US-VISIT program. Information such as name, date of birth, gender, and travel document data is recorded as well. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request I filed in November 2014, the Department of Homeland Security released a document containing information collected about me under this program over the last four years.

To request this information yourself, visit FOIAonline and make a request to US Customs and Border Protection.

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Every photo taken of Runa by the Department of Homeland Security between 2010 and 2014.

Conservative audience laughs as former nsa chief refers to himself as an ‘unrelenting libertarian’ – For a second year in a row, the Conservative Action Political Conference hosted a debate on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

This morning, in a stinging rebuke similar to audience jeering of former Gov. Jim Gilmore’s seething criticism of Ed Snowden at last year’s CPAC, former NSA director Michael Hayden received an earful when he awkwardly declared that he is a libertarian.

Referring to his co-panelist Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano as an “an unrelenting libertarian,” Hayden continued, “So am I.”

As Mediaite pointed out, Hayden was quickly mocked by the audience with sustained booing and at least two people yelling, “no, you’re not!”

One person’s laughter was so loud that it is audible on C-SPAN’s video of the event.

Though Hayden went on to cast his defense of domestic spying as a his duty in the pursuit of liberty and homeland security, he also has a direct stake in the debate over surveillance — and it doesn’t make him any more disposed to the libertarian side of that debate.

Hayden is a principal with the Chertoff Group, a consulting firm for the multi-billion dollar cyber security and intelligence industry. He is also on the board of Alion Science and Technology, a military contractor that does intelligence and techical work. For that part-time gig he has been paid approximately $336,500 over the last four years, according to reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 27, 2015

FCC votes to reclassify ISPs and preserve net neutrality;  AT&T, Verizon lash out at FCC after Net Neutrality ruling;  Woz: Net neutrality decision a victory over ‘bad behavior';  Facebook stops defining gender for its users;  Revealed: The apps that are draining your smartphone battery;  Building a custom WordPress site? These tools will reduce your pain;  Spotify Update Brings Song Lyrics to Your Desktop;  How to send Gmail attachments to Dropbox automatically;  The GIMP’s bad news could be good news;  D-Link remote access vulnerabilities remain unpatched;  Microsoft finally offers Windows 7 ISO downloads;  Some Bitdefender products break HTTPS certificate revocation;  What is malvertising?  Study: Most People Won’t Stop Online Bullies;  Microsoft takes Fable Legends free-to-play on Xbox One and PC;  Photos: The machines that defined British computing;  The Video Game That Goes in Search of God.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

A huge win for the People:

FCC votes to reclassify ISPs and preserve net neutrality – Several weeks after revealing a plan to enshrine net neutrality in federal regulation, the FCC has voted to reclassify internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. That means the FCC can enforce net neutrality regulations, which it is was prohibited from doing after a court battle with Verizon some years ago. Big internet players like Google and Amazon are happy, but ISPs like Verizon and Comcast are not amused in the slightest.

The expected response from the folks whose “highway robbery” business style led to this slap down:

AT&T, Verizon lash out at FCC after Net Neutrality ruling – The nation’s two largest telco companies get personal — and downright childish — following the FCC’s Net Neutrality decision.

The usual suspects:

House Republicans Threaten To Curb The FCC’s “Ability To Regulate The Internet” – Following a landmark vote to put in place strict net neutrality regulations, a group of 21 Republican House members sent a nastygram to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, upbraiding him from policy to procedure, and threatening more than just words.

A techno-wizard’s view:

Woz: Net neutrality decision a victory over ‘bad behavior’ – Technically Incorrect: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says that the FCC overseeing the Web will be a positive step in controlling illegality. He also describes it as a victory for consumers.

Gates and Co.

Microsoft backs FCC vote, happy about net neutrality rules – Microsoft relies on broadband connectivity for many of its consumer services like Skype, Xbox Live, OneDrive and several others. Because of today’s ruling, ISPs cannot force Microsoft to pay for ‘fast lanes’ to prioritize these services for their customers. We will likely see many other companies react to the announcement as it has a profound impact on the future of broadband in the US.

Revealed: The apps that are draining your smartphone battery – Which apps are hogging space, consuming mobile data, and sucking the life out of your Android smartphone?

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Spotify Update Brings Song Lyrics to Your Desktop – The next time you’re rocking out to your favorite jams on Spotify while working away on your desktop, song lyrics will be just a click away. The music-streaming service on Thursday launched a new desktop update, which brings fully integrated lyrics powered by Musixmatch, the world’s largest lyrics catalogue, along with some other handy features. The updates will be rolling out gradually to all desktop users over the coming weeks — so if you don’t see them right away just sit tight.

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Facebook stops defining gender for its users – Last year Facebook took a socially responsible step forward when it allowed users to choose from preset custom genders like “cisgender” or “transgender.” But while the company worked with GLAAD to generate the custom genders, the move was not completely celebrated because users were still made to choose from pre-defined options. Now, it appears those options are gone as the company has started rolling out a new version of its custom gender field. This version still populates suggestions as you type, but also allows users to type in any word they wish to represent themselves with across Facebook.

Twitter Will Crackdown On Serial Trolls By Tracking Their Phone Number – Twitter has a troll problem. Even its CEO knows it. And now the company is doing more to prevent its users suffering abuse and threats on its service. In a bid to make improvements, Twitter has announced new measures to expand the process for reporting user safety concerns, and a system that uses phone numbers to prevent those who repeatedly harass others from creating new accounts.

Building a custom WordPress site? These tools will reduce your pain – If you manage or build WordPress sites, you know just how time-consuming the chore can be. David Gewirtz shares eight tools that will help you get the job done effectively, reliably — and quickly.

Microsoft Spartan: Edge is about breaking from the past, while not breaking the Web – The IE team revealed more on the story behind Microsoft Spartan – the new browser across all Windows 10 devices, and why they will not be moving forward with Internet Explorer.

Microsoft finally offers Windows 7 ISO downloads – Obviously this isn’t a free version, as you’ll need your license key to authenticate the copy. And if your device came with an OEM volume license you might be completely out of luck. Still for those of you out there who have access to their license, this is a great way to legally download a Windows 7 ISO. All users need to do is head over to Microsoft’s website, type in their product key and select which product language you need.

The GIMP’s bad news could be good news – The GIMP has lost its User eXperience (UX) maintainer. Jack Wallen thinks this could be good news for one of the most powerful open-source image editing tools.

Google Play app store to test paid placement in search results – Finding apps in mobile stores is getting harder as more programs join the fray. And for developers, getting your app in front of a consumer is harder too. But now Google is planning to offer a new way to surface apps — and maybe even make some money off it. Developers looking to increase awareness of their apps will soon be able to buy space in search results in Google Play’s mobile apps marketplace.

How to send Gmail attachments to Dropbox automatically – One of the pitfalls of Gmail’s generous storage limits is the temptation to use it as a warehouse for all your email attachments. That seems like less of a good idea when you have to wade through your inbox for that report you need for the weekly all-hands in 15 minutes. But processing the daily influx of messages from clients, colleagues, and friends takes long enough without having to stop and manually save each attached file you receive. Fortunately, you can create an automated workflow to do it for you.

Security:

Some Bitdefender products break HTTPS certificate revocation – Carsten Eiram, the chief research officer of vulnerability intelligence firm Risk Based Security, found that the latest versions of several Bitdefender products, namely Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Bitdefender Internet Security and Bitdefender Total Security, do not check the revocation status of SSL certificates before replacing them with new ones that are signed using a root certificate installed locally. The products use this technique in order to scan encrypted HTTPS traffic for potential threats. While the certificate revocation oversight in Bitdefender products is not as serious as the HTTPS interception flaws found recently in other programs, like the Superfish adware preloaded on Lenovo laptops, its impact is not negligible, Eiram said.

D-Link remote access vulnerabilities remain unpatched – D-Link routers have several unpatched vulnerabilities, the worst of which could allow an attacker to gain total control over a device, according to a systems engineer in Canada. Peter Adkins, who does security research in his free time, released details of the flaws on Thursday. Adkins said in a phone interview that he has been in intermittent contact with D-Link since Jan. 11 on the issues, but the company has not indicated when it might patch.

What is malvertising? – We’re on a bit of an educational push here at Malwarebytes with the aim of helping Internet users become a bit more aware of the latest tricks that criminals are using to catch you out. Hopefully, this means you will be a bit safer online. Today’s post takes a closer look at ‘malvertising’. This was covered in a bit of detail in our previous post on Exploit Kits, but as it presents a significant threat to everyday folks, so we wanted to dig into it in a bit more detail.

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Google enlists BlackBerry to help make Android devices ‘more secure’ – As Reuters reports, BlackBerry will be helping Google “to manage devices equipped with Android for Work”, an initiative designed to securely separate business and personal data and apps on Android devices, which is built on some of Samsung’s own KNOX efforts. The tie-up between Google and BlackBerry is intended to extend the ‘highly secure mobility solution’ to other Android manufacturers. While Android remains a firm consumer favorite, Google is keen to expand its presence in business and enterprise, particularly as its iPhone and Windows Phone rivals enjoy growing workplace support.

Company News:

Silent Circle targets enterprise users with ‘world first’ privacy ecosystem – Encrypted communications provider Silent Circle has raised approximately $50 million in a funding round aimed at pushing the company forward in the enterprise market. Announced on Thursday, Silent Circle said “strong demand” from enterprise customers seeking to keep communication private through the Blackphone product range led the firm to launch a private, common equity round in order to grow and cater for new clients.

IBM to pump $4B into cloud, mobile and analytics this year – IBM will dedicate $4 billion in spending this year to the cloud, analytics and mobile technologies, as it struggles with seismic shifts that are changing the computing landscape it once dominated. In return, by 2018 IBM expects to reap a combined $40 billion in annual revenue from the areas in which it’s investing, which also include social and security, the company said at an annual meeting on Thursday.

Uber’s preferred car-loan partner has been illegally repossessing veterans’ cars – Yesterday, auto lender Santander Consumer USA agreed to pay at least $9.35 million to resolve the accusation that it illegally repossessed over 1,100 vehicles from active military personnel. The company is a close partner of the ride-sharing giant Uber, which funnels drivers with low credit to Santander loan officers. It’s not the company’s first brush with the law: the lender holds over $40 billion in car loans and has repeatedly been the subject of criminal investigations into its subprime auto loan arm.

$533 million not enough? Smartflash files new patent lawsuit against Apple – Patent licensing firm Smartflash may still be celebrating a $533 million victory against Apple, but the companies aren’t finished in the courtroom.

Ericsson joins the queue to sue Apple for patent infringement – No doubt Apple is still smarting over a $533 million court case win by Smartflash this week, but Ericsson is now also suing the company in a patent dispute.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft takes Fable Legends free-to-play on Xbox One and PC – Microsoft and Lionhead Studios are getting behind free-to-play gaming in a big way this morning, announcing that Fable Legends will use the somewhat infamous business model when the game launches on Xbox One and PC later this year (though Xbox One players will still need an Xbox Live Gold account for the multiplayer-only title). This isn’t a case of a limited free portion as a teaser for more extensive paid DLC, either. Lionhead says all of the game’s stories and quests will be included in the free version, and players will be able to “play through it beginning-to-end without having to spend any money… you’ll be able to earn everything that affects gameplay.”

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NVIDIA HairWorks shown off in Far Cry 4 – This week the folks behind development for Far Cry 4 have made a point to show off the wilder aspects of their environment Kyrat. To make their universe one that looks especially realistic, they worked with NVIDIA and one of the more radical elements in NVIDIA’s collection of graphics-intensive programs: NVIDIA HairWorks. We’ve spoken about this before – here we’re getting the opportunity to see HairWorks work in a real deal working game that’s out in the wild right this minute.

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The state of Linux gaming in the SteamOS era – For decades after Linux’s early ’90s debut, even the hardest of hardcore boosters for the open source operating system had to admit that it couldn’t really compete in one important area of software: gaming. “Back in around 2010 you only had two choices for gaming on Linux,” Che Dean, editor of Linux gaming news site Rootgamer recalls. “Play the few open source titles, Super Tux Kart and so on, or use WINE to play your Windows titles.”

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The Video Game That Goes in Search of God – As a sort of implicit, controlled test for the freak-out potential of a technologically governed environment, Breath of Life is rather fascinating. If it isn’t a game that endorses a particular religion, though, Pneuma might be styled as a game of religious striving. Its protagonist’s farcical delusions are an incentive for the player to seek out a more reliable authority about the nature of existence—a deity, in other words, who can guarantee the objective reality of what is perceived.

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Sony Launching 8-Week Spring Fever PSN Sale Next Week – March is almost here, and PlayStation Plus members should know what that means — it’s time for the annual Spring Fever promotion. Sony on Thursday announced details of this year’s sale, which starts March 3 and will last for eight weeks — twice as long as last year. During the sale, PS Plus members will get 10 percent off “hot new digital-only games” like Helldrivers, a hardcore twin stick shooter from Arrowhead Game Studios, during the week they launch.

Microsoft trims price of Xbox Live Gold membership to $40 – Instead of paying the usual fee of $60 a year, you can become an Xbox Live Gold member for $40. The fine print doesn’t indicate whether this is a temporary promotion and, if so, when the sale might end. Want do you get for the $40 annually? An Xbox Live Gold subscription –good for both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 game consoles — allows you to play with and compete against other Xbox owners. You can also tap into a lineup of free games and save anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent on other games sold in the Xbox Store.

Rayman, Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider are the next Free Games with Gold – Every month Xbox Gold subscribers get the chance to download a few games from Microsoft’s catalogue for free. And this time, the offer really features some great titles.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Microsoft’s 2015 Future Vision video released, connected display everywhere – Microsoft has released a new video showcasing their ideas for the future. Demonstrating how emerging technologies could transform the future, Microsoft creates a very unique compilation. It’s sleek and precisely orchestrated to create an introspective look at what Microsoft hopes it can achieve for the world in the not-too-distant future. The video is futuristic but strangely grounded in reality. Each of the tasks carried out in the video don’t seem that far off from today’s technological capabilities. Microsoft’s Future Vision is set just five to ten years in the future.

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Study: Most People Won’t Stop Online Bullies – In 1964 a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed and left for dead in Kew Gardens, Queens. She screamed for help over a half hour while bystanders and apartment-dwellers above apparently ignored her pleas. Her assailant had time to disguise himself during the attack. She died of her injuries, and experts at the time called the failure of bystanders to act “Genovese Syndrome.” While the online world isn’t nearly as dire as Genovese’s tragedy, its clear from a recent OSU study that bystander syndrome that bears her name is still alive and well. The study watched 221 students as they interacted in a chat room. A bully would appear and berate other members of the group. According to the study, “only 10 percent of the students who noticed the abuse directly intervened, either by confronting the bully online or helping the victim.”

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This is how rain and snow travel across the globe – Today NASA released a visualization of storm swirls that took place in 2014, and the results are pretty spectacular. The data were gathered thanks to NASA’s “Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory” (GMP), a satellite network that provides near real-time precipitation data covering the entire planet. But the patterns shown in the video aren’t just meant to look pretty — they’re going to help save lives.

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Photos: BBC Micro, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC 464 and more – the machines that defined British computing – As the Raspberry Pi takes the title for the best-selling British computer of all time we look back at the classic machines to come out of the UK. You can find more details on each of these machines in this accompanying article.

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Amstrad Colour Personal Computer – Launched: 1984 – Price: From £700

The proof is in the testing: The Swiss breakthrough that will make software more reliable – The size and complexity of today’s software programs can make it difficult to check their likely reliability. Testing only goes so far: often after applications are released, it’s a wait-and-see strategy, with developers sending out patches for products if and when major problems become evident. Two computer scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne or EPFL) hope to change that – using automated reasoning tools to replace validating software through testing with more accurate formal mathematical proofs.

Something to think about:

“To be one’s self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.”

–      Irving Wallace

Today’s Free Downloads:

Make it a gaming weekend!   Smile

FlightGear – FlightGear is an open-source flight simulator.  It supports a variety of popular platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.) and is developed by skilled volunteers from around the world.  Source code for the entire project is available and licensed under the GNU General Public License.

The goal of the FlightGear project is to create a sophisticated and open flight simulator framework for use in research or academic environments, pilot training, as an industry engineering tool, for DIY-ers to pursue their favorite interesting flight simulation idea, and last but certainly not least as a fun, realistic, and challenging desktop flight simulator. We are developing a sophisticated, open simulation framework that can be expanded and improved upon by anyone interested in contributing.

There are many exciting possibilities for an open, free flight sim. We hope that this project will be interesting and useful to many people in many areas.

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Söldner Secret Wars Community Edition – Söldner is a semi realistic Military Tactical Multiplayer Shooter using modern weapons and units.

Söldner uses realistic physics and elements to create a believable environment. Still Söldner is fun and easy to play.

Features:

ADS – Advanced Destruction System

– In Söldner – Secret Wars you can destroy everything! With ADS you can deploy an endless variation of true to life tactics.

SWS – Söldner Weapons System

– With SWS you can choose from more than a 100 weapons, all faithfully reproduced with the help from expert military advisor’s. No other game will offer you the same versatile amount of weapons!

AFV – Advanced Fighting Vehicles

– Wage war by land, sea or air. Become a stealthy scuba diver slipping from the waters behind enemy lines. Jump out of an aircraft under cover of darkness and skydive to your target or declare war on a massive scale and invade the enemy base with tanks, helicopters, jets and assault ships.

CMM – Customizable Multiplayer Mode

– Feel the gameworld come alive with the Virtual Online Battlefield. With 22.000.000 km2 (roughly the size of Europe) Söldner- Marine Corps offers you the largest online battlefield today.

OCM – Online Commander Mode

– Become your team’s eyes and ears, directing your troops to victory.

AGS – Advanced Gesture System

– Order your troops into action, call for covering fire, or taunt the enemy into giving away their positions. Make your choice from more than 200 gestures and commands.

UCS – Unit Customization System

– From your flak jacket to your sunglasses each character is completely customizable to give your Söldner a unique look.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Net Neutrality Is Here — Thanks To an Unprecedented Guerrilla Activism Campaign – This morning, the Federal Communications Commission voted to guarantee the open Internet through so-called net neutrality rules, and with it, forged ahead with one of the biggest policy accomplishments of the Obama administration.

“This is probably the most important ruling in the history of the FCC,” says Tim Karr, campaign director for Free Press.

Net neutrality, a principle that all Internet traffic must be treated equally, was a founding concept for the web. But many Internet service providers have attempted to change that. Cell phone companies have attempted to block apps that could compete with their services and cable companies have pressed for paid prioritization, seeking extra income by forcing users to pay for faster connections to select websites.

For Internet start-ups and political activists alike, the efforts by the ISP industry to move away from net neutrality represented a transformation of the Internet, from a place in which all voices were equal to a world of big incumbent websites and corporate media-dominated information sources. “The question came down to, who ultimately controls this Internet? Is it going to be these powerful corporations?” says Karr.

FinFisher spyware violated human rights guidelines, says UK watchdog – Today, a British human rights watchdog condemned private surveillance vendor Gamma International for violating human rights guldelines through its sale of the FinFisher spyware program. Based in London and Frankfurt, Gamma had been criticized for selling to repressive governments in Bahrain and Ethiopia, who used the software to target activists in exile. Today’s decision was issued by the British government’s contact point to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international forum to promote global well-being. Because many of the targeted activists had taken refuge in Britain, the government took particular exception to the spyware, calling today’s ruling “one of the most critical decisions ever issued by the OECD.”

Similar to spyware implants developed by the NSA and GCHQ, FinFisher was sold on the open market, leading many to call for stronger export restrictions against surveillance software.

Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats? – The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS. As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”

In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. As my colleague Andrew Fishman and I wrote last month — after the FBI manipulated a 20-year-old loner who lived with his parents into allegedly agreeing to join an FBI-created plot to attack the Capitol — these cases follow a very clear pattern:

The Head of the NSA Is on a Charm Offensive – Admiral Michael Rogers is grinning at a room of military men and women. He just took a question from one Canadian navy officer sporting facial hair. (“You, sir, with the beard.”) Now, he’s pointing at another scruffy defence type. The crowd, a collection of private defence contractors, bureaucrats, and enlisted people, laugh and exchange looks. This guy is the head of the NSA?

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 26, 2015

It’s official: NSA spying is hurting the US tech economy;  Bloatware: Why computer makers fill your PC with junk, and how to get rid of it;  Android for Work: what is it?  Google now lets you upload 50,000 songs to the cloud for free;  The five best iOS notification center widgets;  Ubuntu 14.04.2 arrives;  Hands On with Microsoft’s wireless charging pad;  Microsoft opens Garage door, shows off experimental apps;  Plex: Hey, it’s not just for pirates anymore;  The 7 Best Facebook Alernatives You Didn’t Know About;  Car Owners Find High-Tech Systems Unreliable;  Facebook fixed 61 high-severity flaws last year;  Iran, U.S. Locked in Escalating Cyberwar;  The best Android games you need to play (right now);  Citing encryption, FBI lobbying to keep phone metadata spying powers.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Chinese government continues dropping foreign tech in favor of local products – China’s interest in moving toward products made within the country appears to be twofold: it removes security concerns around foreign products and bolsters its own tech industry. It’s not clear which is more important to the country. The sources Reuters spoke with seem to believe that security concerns may just be a cover story, but it’s not an entirely unreasonable one, particularly in light of the ongoing revelations about how far US spy agencies are willing to go for information. The US, too, has shown an unwillingness to trust foreign tech, with much being made of its frequent restrictions on the large Chinese telecom firm Huawei.

It’s official: NSA spying is hurting the US tech economy – A new report confirmed key brands, including Cisco, Apple, Intel, and McAfee — among others — have been dropped from the Chinese government’s list of authorized brands, a Reuters report said Wednesday. – Although a number of reasons were cited, domestic companies were said to offer “more product guarantees” than overseas rivals in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. Some reports have attempted to pin a multi-billion dollar figure on the impact of the leaks. In reality, the figure could be incalculable.

Windows 365 will be Windows, plus a little bit more – There’s been rumor and speculation about Microsoft switching the Windows operating system to a subscription-based model since it launched Office 365. When Microsoft unveiled the latest preview build of Windows 10, executives referred to it as Windows-as-a-Service. Now, Microsoft has all but confirmed that some sort of subscription model is coming, since it trademarked Windows 365. Some customers are vehemently opposed, but before you freak out, let’s back up a step and consider what a Windows 365 subscription might entail.

Pointing up   Personally, I would refuse to be part of a subscription based operating system. Should Microsoft attempt to force the issue, my focus would switch from running with Linux 20% of the time to running with Ubuntu, for example, full time. The idea that a Linux distro is clunky or otherwise handicapped, or difficult to use, is sheer propaganda – this is not 1999.

If you’re using an Android smartphone – then, you’re already running with a variation of Linux. How hard was that? 

Android for Work: what is it? – Today Google revealed their newest Android-based initiative: Android for Work. This system brings several work-related technology to the Android software universe for businesses of all kinds. Four key technology components are included: Google Play at Work, the Android for Work app, Work profiles, and built-in productivity tools of all kinds. This system is launching with a large collection of industrial technology partners that have Google scoring big with potential for business-related engagement through Android – this includes smartphones, tablets, and everything in-between.

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Bloatware: Why computer makers fill your PC with junk, and how to get rid of it – Lenovo’s Superfish debacle has thrust bloatware back into the limelight. Here’s why PC makers intentionally make your PC experience worse, and how to blast the crap off your computer.

The five best iOS notification center widgets – You may have been one of the many to shout “Finally!” when widgets came to iOS. Whether you’ve used them before on Android or were just waiting for that kind of flexibility on iOS, you finally have one touch access to key apps. It’s taken developers a while to fully utilize this new functionality to its potential, but we’re finally seeing the fruits of their labor. Here is a roundup of some of the apps that put widgets to their best use.

Google now lets you upload 50,000 songs to the cloud for free – Google’s taking a big step out in front of its music streaming competitors today. The company has just announced that effective immediately, you’ll be able to upload up to 50,000 songs from your personal music collection and store them in the cloud through Google Play Music — all for free. The previous limit was 20,000.

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Facebook suicide prevention tool update inbound – Cries for help come in many forms, and in our digital age, many of them take place online. Facebook, being one of the biggest social networks out there, is peppered with depressed, suicidal, and otherwise troubling statuses making one’s personal anguish known to a larger audience. The social network has previously had a tool that aimed to help those who might be suicidal, and now the network is updating it to be more robust. With the update, those who may be suicidal are temporarily locked out of their account. Posts flagged as being suicidal will be shuttled off to Facebook workers trained in suicide prevention. That user’s account will be temporarily blocked, and the user won’t be able to get access again until they are presented with a Facebook page showing information on preventing suicide, a suicide hotline, and an option to contact one’s friends over it.

Hands On with Microsoft’s wireless charging pad, the DT-903 – A few weeks back, Microsoft started shipping the DT-903, a wireless charging pad and we have gotten our hands on one; after the jump is a gallery of the new device.

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Twitter Finally Launches An Official WordPress Plug-In – There are hundreds upon hundreds of Twitter-related plug-ins for WordPress. Seriously, go look. And yet, in its nine years since launch, Twitter has never released an official plug-in to make WordPress and Twitter play friendly. Until today.

Google officially launches Flights, their Search-friendly travel tool – As the travel booking game tightens up via acquisitions, Google is set to muscle their way in. Though Expedia and Travelocity are toeing the line, Google is also ready to get involved with Google Flights, a new Search item that finds you the best deal on your travel. Flights works as you might expect, too: put in your departure city, an arrival destination, and Flights will find you the best deal. Flights is also neat because you don’t even need to know where you’re headed.

Ubuntu 14.04.2 arrives with updated hardware support and a new Linux kernel – Canonical just released Ubuntu 14.04.2, the second point-release of the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS series. As always, this point release brings hardware support updates so you can continue installing Ubuntu 14.04 on new PCs. You won’t get the hardware support updates on existing PCs, though—if your computer’s hardware doesn’t all work properly, you’ll want to update it yourself. Let’s dig in.

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Panasonic’s new 4K VIERA LED TV line to run Firefox OS – The platform wars are moving to smart TVs. Don’t believe it? Samsung is putting Tizen on all its smart TVs this year. LG’s own sets already have webOS inside. Now Panasonic is joining the fray, but not with an operating system that it has developed itself. As it showed at CES last month, the consumer electronics maker is betting big on Firefox OS and it is announcing that all the members of its new 4K VIERA TV line will be employing the web-based platform for its user interface.

Plex: Hey, it’s not just for pirates anymore – Plex doesn’t exactly hide the fact that it’s a killer app for pirated video. Just look at the marketing materials for the media server software, and you’ll see how easy it is to stream your collection of movies and TV shows to all your devices.    Hey, I’m not here to judge. But I was interested to see if Plex could be a valuable tool for law-abiding cord cutters as well. After playing around with the software and asking some kind folks on Reddit, I’ve found some legal uses for Plex that are worth checking out.

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Microsoft opens Garage door, shows off experimental apps – The Garage incubator releases apps for Windows Phone and Android that range from giving you reports on air quality in China to connecting you to conference calls using voice commands.

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Car Owners Find High-Tech Systems Unreliable – Modern cars have more high-tech bells and whistles than ever before, but technologies like Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition rank as the least dependable vehicle systems, according to a new study by J.D. Power.

The 7 Best Facebook Alernatives You Didn’t Know About – Your Facebook friends are boring. Your Twitter followers sound like a bunch of parrots. And your LinkedIn contacts, well, who wants to talk about work all day, anyway? Amazingly, in 2015, it’s still possible to feel like you’ve reached the end of the Internet, especially if you rely on your social networks for news and amusement. But there are more ways to connect with people online than the three most popular social networks. In fact, smaller networks are some of the best places to dig into topics you care more deeply about. So sign up and check out at one of these great alternative social networks:

Security:

EFF unearths evidence of possible Superfish-style attacks in the wild – It’s starting to look like Superfish and other software containing the same HTTPS-breaking code library may have posed more than a merely theoretical danger to Internet users. For the first time, researchers have uncovered evidence suggesting the critical weakness may have been exploited against real people visiting real sites, including Gmail, Amazon, eBay, Twitter, and Gpg4Win.org, to name just a few. Until now, that danger was nothing more than a troubling hypothetical, but no more. On Wednesday, researchers presented evidence attackers have exploited the weaknesses in Superfish and the other programs to launch real man-in-the-middle attacks on end users as they visited some of the most sensitive HTTPS-protected websites on the Internet.

Lenovo’s bad week gets worse: website hacked by Lizard Squad – After publicly admitting to poor business decisions regarding the pre-loaded Superfish software on Lenovo machines, Lizard Squad decides the company could use a good hacking as punishment.

Europol and security vendors disrupt massive Ramnit botnet – European law enforcement agencies seized command-and-control servers used by Ramnit, a malware program that steals online banking credentials, FTP passwords, session cookies and personal files from victims. Researchers from antivirus vendor Symantec described the malware program as “a fully-featured cybercrime tool” in a blog post Wednesday and said that it infected over 3.2 million computers over its five years of existence.

Target Says Credit Card Data Breach Cost It $162M In 2013-14 – Target today said that it has booked $162 million in expenses across 2013 and 2014 related to its data breach, in which hackers broke into the company’s network to access credit card information and other customer data, affecting some 70 million customers. The figure, revealed in the company’s Q4 earnings published today, includes $4 million in Q4, and $191 million in gross expenses for 2014, as well as $61 million gross for 2013. Target says that the gross number was offset in part by insurance receivables of $46 million for 2014 and $44 million for 2013.

Apple patent reveals tracking capabilities even if phone appears off – Apple is getting a bit of interest over patent news today, and not just because of a patent lawsuit the company lost in court yesterday. A new patent filed in January could allow for stolen iPhones and iPads to be tracked even when they are powered down. The patent, titled “Apparatus and Method for Determining a Wireless Device’s Location after Shutdown” looks to tie into the Apple “Find My iPhone” app that works to triangulate the position of an iPhone to help its owner recover a lost/missing device. This new technology, if functioning properly, would allow iPhone and perhaps iPad owners to see the current location of their devices even if the units are powered down.

Facebook fixed 61 high-severity flaws last year through its bug bounty program – In 2014, the company paid bug bounties totaling $1.3 million to 321 researchers from 65 countries, according to a newly published annual report. The average reward was $1,788 and the top three countries where valid bug reports originated were India, with 196 submissions; Egypt, with 81 and the U.S. with 61. It’s worth noting that, based on the statistics released by the company, finding a critical bug is not that easy. Facebook received 17,011 bug submissions in 2014 and those resulted in only 61 high-risk bugs being identified.

Iran, U.S. Locked in Escalating Cyberwar – Cyberwarfare between the U.S. and Iran has been accelerating at an alarming rate since 2012, according to a recently disclosed document from the NSA. The top-secret and classified document confirms that the two countries have developed and deployed technology for spying and sabotage, a situation that has escalated dramatically in the last three years.

Company News:

Apple ordered to pay half a billion dollars for patent infringement – A federal jury in Texas has ordered Apple to pay more than half a billion dollars after the company was found guilty of infringing three patents held by a local company. The patents, held by Smartflash LLC, relate to digital rights management, data storage and access through payment systems. They were seemingly infringed upon by Apple’s iTunes and some of the apps found in the App Store, though the plaintiff also mentioned the Mac App Store, and iAd as avenues for infringement.

Samsung faces complaint in US FTC over Smart TV ‘surveillance’ – A complaint filed by a privacy group to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission charged that Samsung’s Smart TVs intercept and record private communications of consumers in their homes, violating a number of rules including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has asked the FTC to investigate and stop the practice by Samsung of collecting private communications and transmitting the recordings to a third party.

Despite a billion viewers, YouTube has zero profit – It’s hard to image that YouTube, as ubiquitous and gigantic as it is, has never turned a profit. But that’s exactly what a new report explains, alongside the myriad challenges that the site faces.

Pointing up   Big Deal! YouTube has always been positioned as a “loss leader” for Google. Why the fuss now?

Google chairman Eric Schmidt will reportedly meet EU antitrust commissioner next week – After recent discussions with Microsoft, Axel Springer and other complainants against Google, the EU’s antitrust chief will meet with Schmidt in the latest stage of Europe’s 4-year investigation.

Uber goes free in Seoul as pressure from city government mounts – The car-hailing service has been operating despite the city’s argument that it’s illegal. It says its latest move is an effort to establish “a consensus” with government officials.

Games and Entertainment:

The best Android games you need to play (right now) – Finding a good game to play is hard — so many options! Fret not, I’m here to help with a with a heap of games you should probably toss onto your Android phone or tablet, posthaste. Stow your pitchforks: the games here aren’t listed in any particular order, and while I’d love to play everything under the sun, pesky responsibilities get in the way. These are just my current favorites, and it’s likely I missed some of yours. Here’s an idea: post your favorites in the comments, as I’ll be updating this regularly and don’t want to miss too many gems. Also, note that all prices are in US dollars.

The New Razer Blade Is The Gaming Laptop To Beat – Like its predecessor, this year’s Razer Blade packs in a 14-inch, 3200 x 1800 pixel screen. It looks pretty from most angles and can get quite bright, and has a touch screen if you’re one of the Windows 8 users who actually takes advantage of touch-friendly menus. Photos and video really pop on the display — it’s not quite 4K, but considering it’s already past the point of not being able to discern pixels at reasonable distances, that’s not something anyone is going to miss.

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Chat App Viber Opens Its Games Service To All Users Worldwide – Messaging app Viber has quietly made its games service available for all users worldwide following a two month pilot in five countries. The company, which was bought by Rakuten for $900 million a year ago, initially launched three games for users in Belarus, Malaysia, Israel, Singapore and Ukraine in December 2014. The titles — Viber Candy Mania, Wild Luck Casino and Viber Pop, links to which popped up in my app today — are standalone apps that link up to Viber to let users share scores, battle and generally interact with friends on the service.

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Netflix Expands Its Kids’ Lineup With Five New Shows, Including An “Inspector Gadget” Reboot – Netflix this morning announced it’s preparing to expand its lineup of original and exclusive programs aimed at children with an order of five new kids’ shows, including remakes of well-loved classics like Inspector Gadget and Danger Mouse. While children today may not be familiar with these titles themselves, their Gen X and millennials parents likely are – and they’re Netflix’s paying subscribers.

Nickelodeon Unveils “Noggin,” A Mobile Subscription Service For Preschoolers Arriving In March – Nickelodeon today unveiled its new mobile streaming subscription service called Noggin, which will be aimed at preschoolers and priced at $5.99 per month when it launches next month. Parent company Viacom had previously announced the forthcoming service’s arrival in January, noting also that the service would not require households to have a cable or satellite TV subscription in order to access its content.

Sub-$100 Gaming Headset Roundup – Having only ever bought relatively cheap headsets with proportionally cheap audio quality, it seems about time for me to upgrade. In the process of settling on a new headset, I’ve acquired six sub-$100 gaming-oriented models from separate hardware manufacturers to compare in a roundup. I have models from Kingston, Polk, Gigabyte, Razer, Logitech and Tesoro. Most of these companies are not known for their audio products, so it’ll be interesting to see what they deliver. It goes without saying but we will anyway: audiophiles may want to bail now because these headsets aren’t for you.

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Amazon shuttering Unbox on March 29th; download your movies now – Amazon notified customers that Unbox, the tool used to download and play movies offline, is officially closing on March 29th, at which time customers will lose all access to their purchased content.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Alan Turing’s Family Wants Britain to Pardon All 49,000 Gay Men Convicted of ‘Gross Indecency’ – The family of Alan Turing, the legendary mathematician who helped crack the Nazi Enigma code and hasten the end of World War II, is championing a campaign to pardon nearly 50,000 men who were convicted of “gross indecency” under antiquated laws banning gay sex in Britain. Turing, whose story inspired the 2015 Oscar-winning movie The Imitation Game, was himself convicted of indecency in 1952. He was chemically castrated and two years later, at the age of 41, died in an apparent suicide, after taking a bite of a cyanide-laced apple. While Turing was offered a royal pardon in 2013, campaigners argue that the Queen should have extended the measure to include all those affected. An estimated 15,000 men who were convicted under the outdated law are thought to be alive today.

Curiosity Mars rover takes its most impressive selfie yet – Curiosity continues to be one of the most successful robotic missions in the history of space exploration, but it’s not all work for this Mars rover. Sometimes it likes to have a little fun up there and take some selfies. The latest Curiosity selfie was taken at the “Mojave” site at the base of Mount Sharp, and it’s an amazing view. This camera has a resolution of just 1600 x 1200, or about 2 megapixels. If you piece together enough images taken with the MALI camera, though, you can create massive images. This mosaic is an example of that with a total resolution of 18,029 x 9,233. It’s the equivalent of more than 166 megapixels. You can download the full resolution image here, but be aware it’s a 32MB JPEG. That’s gigantic by image standards. Many programs and computers will choke on it.

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NASA satellite shows how much sand from the Sahara is in the atmosphere – NASA is using one of its satellites to determine how much sand from the Sahara Desert in Africa ends up helping the Amazon rainforest in South America to grow. While the two locations are on different continents, the amount of dust from the desert that makes its way to the rain forest will surprise you. NASA used one of its satellites to quantify how much dust from the desert makes it to South America for the first time.

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Vintage X-rays reveal the hidden effects of corsets – In 1908, a doctor used X-rays to highlight the damaging effects of tight corsets on a woman’s body.

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Google’s AI wins Space Invaders, proves “human-level control” – A new study has been published this week which suggests that artificial intelligence can now learn “human-level control.” The team of researchers come from Google’s DeepMind, where they’re using Space Invaders – the video game – to show how the search for truly human artificial intelligence isn’t too far off. The machine learns to play the video game, learns to win at the video game, and dominates all humans at the game they’ve created to help us defend our planet against the alien hordes.

Something to think about:

“A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.”

–      Dorothy C. Fisher

Today’s Free Downloads:

X-Mouse Button Control – X-Mouse Button Control is a windows application to remap your mouse buttons.

You are able to provide an application specific mappings, which means one application can use the mouse differently from another. This is useful for games which do not inherently support the extended mouse buttons, because you can map keys to each button.

What’s more, the list of functions available to map to is somewhat more comprehensive than the 32bit MS Intellimouse Software can handle, including things like:

Copy/Cut/Paste

Volume Up/Down/Mute

Media Player control

Send a custom keystroke sequence

Launch your email (or any other) application.

Capture screen (or active window) image to clipboard.

Click-Drag [Sticky Buttons].

Save and restore desktop icon positions.

Vista (and Windows 7) support including some Vista/7 only featurs such as ‘Flip 3D’.

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SoftPerfect Network Scanner – SoftPerfect Network Scanner is a free multi-threaded IP, NetBIOS and SNMP scanner with a modern interface and several advanced features. It is intended for both system administrators and general users who are interested in computer security. The program pings computers, scans for listening TCP ports and displays which types of resources are shared on the network (including system and hidden).

In addition, it allows you to mount shared folders as network drives, browse them using Windows Explorer, filter the results list and more. SoftPerfect Network Scanner can also check for a user-defined port and report back if one is open. It can also resolve host names and auto-detect your local and external IP range. It supports remote shutdown and Wake-On-LAN.

Features:

Pings computers.

Does not require administrative privileges.

Detects hardware (MAC) addresses even across routers.

Detects hidden shared folders (normally invisible on the network) and write accessible shares.

Detects your internal and external IP addresses.

Scans for listening TCP ports and SNMP services.

Retrieves currently logged-on users.

You can mount and explore network resources.

Can launch external third party applications.

Exports results to HTML, XML, CSV and TXT

Supports Wake-On-LAN, remote shutdown and sending network messages.

Retrieves potentially any information via WMI.

It is absolutely free, requires no installation, and does not contain any adware/spyware/malware.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Canadian Spies Collect Domestic Emails in Secret Security Sweep – Canada’s electronic surveillance agency is covertly monitoring vast amounts of Canadians’ emails as part of a sweeping domestic cybersecurity operation, according to top-secret documents.

The surveillance initiative, revealed Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, is sifting through millions of emails sent to Canadian government agencies and departments, archiving details about them on a database for months or even years.

The data mining operation is carried out by the Communications Security Establishment, or CSE, Canada’s equivalent of the National Security Agency. Its existence is disclosed in documents obtained by The Intercept from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The emails are vacuumed up by the Canadian agency as part of its mandate to defend against hacking attacks and malware targeting government computers. It relies on a system codenamed PONY EXPRESS to analyze the messages in a bid to detect potential cyber threats.

Last year, CSE acknowledged it collected some private communications as part of cybersecurity efforts. But it refused to divulge the number of communications being stored or to explain for how long any intercepted messages would be retained.

Now, the Snowden documents shine a light for the first time on the huge scope of the operation — exposing the controversial details the government withheld from the public.

Gemalto Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know – Gemalto, the French-Dutch digital security giant, confirmed that it believes American and British spies were behind a “particularly sophisticated intrusion” of its internal computer networks, as reported by The Intercept last week.

This morning, the company tried to downplay the significance of NSA and GCHQ efforts against its mobile phone encryption keys — and, in the process, made erroneous statements about cellphone technology and sweeping claims about its own security that experts describe as highly questionable.

Gemalto, which is the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, launched an internal investigation after The Intercept six days ago revealed that the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ hacked the company and cyberstalked its employees. In the secret documents, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the intelligence agencies described a successful effort to obtain secret encryption keys used to protect hundreds of millions of mobile devices across the globe.

The company was eager to address the claims that its systems and encryption keys had been massively compromised. At one point in stock trading after publication of the report, Gemalto suffered a half billion dollar hit to its market capitalization. The stock only partially recovered in the following days.

Citing encryption, FBI lobbying to keep phone metadata spying powers – The law that the Obama administration cites to allow bulk telephone metadata collection expires on June 1, and the FBI has already begun lobbying to keep Section 215 of the Patriot Act from expiring. Bad guys “going dark” using encryption, the FBI says, is one of the reasons why the government needs to collect the metadata of every phone call made to and from the United States.

Robert Anderson, the FBI’s chief of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch, told reporters during a roundtable discussion Tuesday that the Patriot Act is necessary because encrypted communications are becoming more commonplace in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures.

“In the last two to three years, that whole ‘going dark’ thing went from a crawl to a flat-out sprint because the technology is changing so rapidly,” Anderson said.

Joseph Demarest, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, told reporters that if Section 215 expires, “Obviously it’s going to impact what we do as an organization and certainly on cyber.”

The comments, especially as they relate to encryption, are part of a growing chorus of calls—from as high as President Barack Obama—that the government needs Silicon Valley’s assistance for backdoors into encrypted tech products like the iPhone.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 25, 2015

Chicago police are running a horrifying CIA-style black site out of a warehouse;  Arrange your iOS home screen any way you like with Makeovr;  Microsoft rolls out free Office for students, worldwide;  Microsoft kills off Google and Facebook chat for Outlook.com;  How to turn your old phone into a basic PC for cheap;  Reddit bans nude images posted without consent;  How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer;  Six awesome Android apps to get your creative juices flowing;  Monitor battery status with these five free apps;  Forge, the sketch app for brainstorming, lands on iOS;  Tips: How the iPhone 6 Plus and Android phones can do real work;  Feds say skin cancer apps are deceptive;  Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Chicago police are running a horrifying CIA-style black site out of a warehouse – A remarkable report from Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian has revealed in detail the existence of an interrogation facility used by Chicago police to detain and hold people in secret. The report describes how police have used a “nondescript warehouse” to keep detainees out of booking databases, beat prisoners, shackle them for “prolonged periods,” and keep them from legal counsel for up to 24 hours — including even children as young as 15. As The Guardian’s report demonstrates, it’s not just weapons from the war on terror that are flowing to police departments across the country: it’s tactics and attitudes, too. “I’ve never known of any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours,” retired DC homicide detective James Trainum told The Guardian. “That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist.”

Pointing up       A chilling illustration of the Boiling Frog.

Microsoft rolls out free Office for students, worldwide – In 2013, Microsoft said it would offer Microsoft Office 365 to U.S. students for free, provided their schools licensed the software for faculty and staff. Now, that offer is being extended worldwide. Microsoft said Tuesday that the offer for free Office is being extended anywhere Office is available: from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, or dozens of countries around the world. As before, the school must license Office in order for its students to be eligible.

How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer – Deep cleaning your computer of unwanted files and streamlining your folder system can not only free up storage space, but improve your computer’s performance. From decluttering tips to apps that do your organizing for you, here’s how to spruce up your computer and make sure it stays that way.

How to turn your old phone into a basic PC for cheap – Your old smartphone has a greater destiny than your junk drawer. Believe it or not, you can turn it into, say, a mini-PC or media streamer. Assuming it packs both USB On The Go support (OTG) and a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) compatible port, there’s a ton of additional functionality lurking under that its hood. Heck, you can even use a smartphone with a broken screen for this. Without further ado, here’s how to transform your old smartphone into the brains of an Android-powered PC.

Arrange your iOS home screen any way you like with Makeovr – Tired of the same, boring home screen grid layout that’s been around on iOS since its inception? You’re going to want to read this.

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The process for adding a home screen icon to your iOS device.

Monitor battery status with the help of these five free apps – Don’t get caught short with a powerless device. These apps make it easy to monitor and conserve battery life.

Reddit bans nude images posted without consent – Several months after reddit found itself at the center of a controversy involving stolen celebrity nude photos, the site has changed its policy regarding nudity. As of March 10, any photos posted without permission of those photographed will be banned. The change was announced today in a short statement signed by executives and “the reddit team,” which also mentions new hires and other changes. It alludes to reddit’s failure to act promptly when unruly users in a few subreddits continued to post links to nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and other celebrities. The statement reads:

Google Chrome Experiments launches their 1000th experiment – It’s a landmark day for Google’s Chrome Experiments as they’ve reached 1000 submissions today. Google has curated a collection of user-made games, art, and creative coding it calls Chrome Experiments. These experiments look like games, but each one uses outside-the-box design and coding to create an entirely unique user experience. Launched in 2009, it started with only a handful of games. Now Google has reached its 1000 experiments! To honor the occasion, they have created a unique way to interface with the entire collection of experiments titled Experiment #1000.

Microsoft opens up OneDrive storage for developers to integrate into apps – Microsoft is opening up its cloud storage service, OneDrive, to developers today so they can start integrating it directly into applications. A new OneDrive API will include support for Windows, iOS, Android, and the web, with the full features of OneDrive available directly within apps. “The OneDrive API is a major step toward making the platform more accessible and powerful, but this is only the beginning,” says OneDrive program manager Ryan Gregg. “We are working on a lot of other improvements and features that we will release throughout the year.”

Microsoft kills off Google and Facebook chat for Outlook.com – Microsoft is revealing today that it plans to kill off Google and Facebook chat from its Outlook.com email service “within the next couple of weeks.” In an email to Outlook.com customers, Microsoft says it’s removing Google Talk integration “due to Google’s decision to discontinue the chat protocol used by the Google Talk platform.” Microsoft will also be discontinuing support for Facebook chat in Outlook.com, but the company has not revealed why it’s killing off the social network’s chat integration.

Six awesome Android apps to get your creative juices flowing – Form virtual pottery throwing to music making, these Android apps do wonders to get you out of your mental rut and try something new. Whether it’s humming a ditty into the mic or literally sketching up a mini-masterpiece, there’s likely an app for this, that, and everything else. What follows are examples of Android apps that can help get the creative juices flowing. Spend a few minutes with these and you may unlock a side of you that you didn’t know existed.

Stardock announces Start10, a Windows 10 Start menu replacement – Stardock, the company behind the popular Start8 application, has announced Start10 that brings new Start menu customization options to Windows 10 including the ability to use a Windows 7 styled menu.

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Scout gets IFTTT channel, runs away with DIY home security crown – Home security doesn’t have to be expensive any more. In fact, you can get peace of mind for a few hundred bucks upfront, and never pay another dime. It’s one of the benefits of the ‘Internet of Things’ we keep hearing about. DIY home security is probably best realized with Scout, which lets you migrate between connected monitoring and home-grown security. Already one of the better options around, Scout just got a lot better with a new IFTTT channel.

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Forge, the sketch app for brainstorming, lands on iOS – Drawing apps for iOS are easy to come by, with Paper by FiftyThree or Adobe’s Sketch being the most notable and identifiable apps. Those ask that you use them to completion, though, and provide you with the tools necessary to finish works of art. What if you just want a sketching app, though? Those do the trick, but a new app, Forge, is made for it. Rather than creating something that looks like a painting, Forge is meant for brainstorming.

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New ‘Pebble Time’ Smartwatch Hits Kickstarter – Pebble is returning to its roots today with the Kickstarter launch of its new Pebble Time smartwatch. The next-gen wristwatch features a new color e-paper display and microphone, as well as a thinner, curved design. Like its predecessors (the Pebble and Pebble Steel), the Time syncs with Apple and Android smartphones; users will need an iPhone 4s or newer running the latest iOS, while Android owners must be updated to Android 4.0 or higher.

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How to deal with difficult SD cards that refuse to write data – SD cards can be pricey, but they also pack a lot of storage into a small form factor—if you don’t get one that refuses to work with PCs. If you do, here’s how to fix the issue.

Tips: How the iPhone 6 Plus and Android phones can do real work – Tablets do a nice job standing in for laptops at work, especially when paired with a good keyboard. What some don’t realize is the same is true for smartphones with a large display. The biggest iPhone is particularly good for occasional work tasks if you do it right. The advantage the phone has over other types of mobile devices is that the phone is always with you. This is reason enough to give some thought to using it for work, and with a little preparation it can be a full work system.

VMSave preserves your deceased loved one’s voicemail greeting – Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things in the world. A new service saves the voicemail greetings of those who’ve passed away so you can listen to them forever.

Security:

The NSA’s SIM heist could have given it the power to plant spyware on any phone – The stolen SIM keys don’t just give the NSA the power to listen in on calls, but potentially to plant spyware on any phone at any time. Once the stolen keys have bypassed the usual protections, the spyware would live on the SIM card itself, undetectable through conventional tools, able to pull data and install malicious software. If the NSA and GCHQ are pursuing that capability, it could be one of the biggest threats unearthed by Snowden so far.

Glad you’re not on the Anthem hacker hit list? Not so fast – millions more affected – US health insurer Anthem now says that the recent security breach that exposed the personal data of tens of millions of its customers also affected people who never did business with the firm. That’s because Anthem’s database included data not just for customers of Anthem-run Blue Cross Blue Shield healthcare plans, but also for customers of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans run by other companies outside of the fourteen states in which Anthem operates. Reuters reports that in addition to the 70 million Anthem customers who were affected by the breach, Anthem now estimates that between 8.8 million and 18.8 million customers of other companies’ health plans may also have had their data compromised.

FBI “close” to identifying Anthem hackers, as dozens of state-sponsored groups identified – As many as 78.8 million people may have been affected by the health insurance hack that hit the company earlier this year. That also includes up to 18.8 million customers of non-Anthem plans, the company said. It comes as the FBI confirmed Tuesday it has more than 60 different state-sponsored cyber-threat groups on its radar.

Snowden’s favourite Linux – Tails – rushes sec-fix version to market – Tails, the secure live-boot Linux made famous by Edward Snowden, has had a major revision release to Version 1.3. The new version, released after testing since February 12, combines various security fixes with new apps and simplified install, the developers say. The developers want to kill off the previous version, Tails 1.2.3, as soon as possible, with a list of 14 security issues covering everything from the Tor browser and its network security services (NSS) through to a sudo privilege escalation bug.

Kaspersky Labs Launches Online Bootcamp To Eye Security Startups – More signs that security is rising up the investment agenda: another security-focused accelerator program has launched, hoping to put a clutch of security startups through their paces — this one with backing from veteran security firm Kaspersky Labs, via its educational arm Kaspersky Academy. The incentive here is for Kaspersky to get proximity to new business ideas, and the participating VC firms to improve their security-related deal flow — given they can always step in and invest in any of the early stage businesses that catch their eye.

Feds say skin cancer apps are deceptive – The Federal Trade Commission charges several promoters of supposed melanoma-detection apps with deceptive marketing and says they must provide evidence to back up their claims.

Company News:

Google Tests Live Chat With Businesses From Search Results – Google is testing out a service that incorporates live chat with businesses right into search results, via a new link that shows whether a business is currently available, and immediately launches a chat via Google Hangouts (on either desktop or mobile) if they are. The service resembles Path Talk’s direct messaging platform with local businesses, but incorporates its service right into the business listing search result card it shows on Google.com, which also shows you details including price level, address, map location, phone number, opening hours, ratings and reviews.

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HP gives a bleak forecast as split approaches – Hewlett-Packard has lowered its financial outlook for the year after another quarter of declining sales and profit. CEO Meg Whitman is trying to get HP in shape before the company splits itself in two later this year. One half will sell PCs and printers and the other will focus on back-end business products.

Google Acquires Facebook Marketing Startup Toro – Toro, a startup that helps developers promote their apps on Facebook, just announced that it’s been acquired by Google. The announcement does not disclose the financial terms of the deal. Toro had raised $1.5 million in funding from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, SV Angel, General Catalyst, Keith Rabois, Chris Dixon, Bill Tai and Guitar Hero co-creators Charles Huang and Kai Huang. A Google spokesperson confirmed the news and said Toro will be joining the mobile ads team.

Games and Entertainment:

You got TV in my video game: Telltale, Lionsgate partner for episodic hybrid – Telltale is going a bit outside of its traditional adventure game box for its next foray into interactive storytelling. The studio behind episodic gaming hits like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Wolf Among Us has teamed up with film and TV studio Lionsgate (Orange is the New Black) to develop a “Super Show” hybrid combining a traditional TV show with episodic adventure gaming. Each episode of the Super Show will “combine one part of interactive playable content with one part of scripted television style content,” as Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner put it in an announcement interview with Entertainment Weekly. The hybrid episodes will be released together in a package that can be played/watched in either order, though the second portion you experience will be altered based on your experience with the first.

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A scene from Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us

Homeworld Remastered puts you in command of the most stunning space battles ever – Homeworld, a space-based strategy game first released in 1999, is one example of this. Whoever’s call it was to make the spaceships emit colorful light trails in their wake made a pretty amazing decision, because it helped solidify one of the most distinctive art styles in the history of gaming. Homeworld rendered space warfare as gorgeous, balletic battles, with every movement made by your fleet etching rainbow lines against a backdrop of psychedelic nebulae. At least, that’s how I remember it looking. And that’s how Homeworld Remastered Collection, a new re-release of Homeworld and Homeworld 2 that’s out tomorrow, looks. It brings the two games up to date in meticulous detail, while also including the original versions so you can see how far we’ve come. As it happens, we’ve come a long way.

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Grand Theft Auto V for PC delayed again, now expected in April – The game had originally been scheduled for PC release on January 27 – already over two months later than its launch on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – but the games developers said that they needed “a few extra weeks of testing and polish to make it as good as can be”, promising to release it on March 24. Rockstar now says that GTA V for PC will go on sale on April 14th (still 2015, we presume), both in retail stores and as a digital download. Anyone who has already pre-ordered the game will get an extra $200,000 of in-game cash for use in GTA Online.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Cybergeddon: Why the Internet could be the next “failed state” – That day is not yet nigh, but logic suggests the status quo can’t continue forever. The recent rash of major breaches of corporate networks, including the theft of personal information from the health insurer Anthem and the theft of as much as a billion dollars from over 100 banks are symptoms of a much larger trend of cybercrime and espionage. And while the issue has been once again raised to national importance by the White House, it could be argued that governments have done more to exacerbate the problem than address it. Fears of digital warfare and crime are shifting budget priorities, funding the rapid expansion of the security industry and being used as a reason for proposals for new laws and policy that could reshape the Internet.

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You Asked: How Do Driverless Cars Work? – Even though they’re barely on the road, self-driving cars have been talked about so much that they already seem like they’re last year’s model. Google has been working on one for years. Apple is allegedly, possibly, working on one, too. And there’s even speculation that everyone from Uber to Tesla could join the race, too. But before you give up the wheel, get familiar with the technology driving autonomous vehicles.

Instagram account exposes congressman who blew public funds on private flights and concerts – An Illinois congressman was found to have used taxpayer and campaign funds on private plane travel, concert tickets, and other lavish expenses after the Associated Press cross-referenced his Instagram account against his flight records. Republican representative Aaron Schock, who is already facing several ethics probes, reportedly spent more than $40,000 on private air travel from 2011 onwards, and took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry show in June last year, a $1,928 expense that he listed as a “PAC fundraising event.”

Fresh honey is on tap at these amazing beehives – Amateur apiarists, check out this sweet little creation. It’s a revolutionary new beehive system that literally puts honey on tap in your backyard. The Flow Hive offers an easier — and much gentler — way to collect honey. Put a container under the tube, turn the handle, watch the liquid gold flow. There’s no smoker required and no protective suit is necessary. It looks so safe you could probably do it in the nude if you were so inclined.

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Gerbils replace rats as historical plague spreaders – It would appear that our hatred of rats for the past several hundred years may be due to a bit of mistaken identity. Scientists this week have published a paper which suggests that it wasn’t so much rats that spread the bubonic plague across the planet, but gerbils. Your best buddy, the gerbil – the one you’ve got in a plastic tube cage sitting in your living room right now. He may have been guilty this whole time! All these hundreds of years, keeping silent for his ancestors, the real-deal spreaders of plague.

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Here’s how to make mini ‘rockets’ out of tea bags – DIY guru DaveHax is back with another one fun but pointless project. Here, he makes miniature “rockets” out of nothing more than a standard tea bag. Remember, safety first.

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The big deal about “big data”—your guide to what the heck it actually means – On the surface, “big data” sounds like it ought to have something to do with, say, storing tremendous amounts of data. Frankly it does, but that’s only part of the picture. Wikipedia has an extremely long, extremely thorough (and, overly complex) breakdown of the term, but without reading for two hours, big data as a buzzword refers to the entire process of gathering and storing tremendous amounts of data, then applying tremendous amounts of computing power and advanced algorithms to the data in order to pick out trends and connect dots that would otherwise be invisible and un-connectable within the mass

Something to think about:

“The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.”

–      Oscar Wilde

Today’s Free Downloads:

Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox – Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox is a collection of powerful tools to help both the technician and home users. Portable version also available.

Many of the tools have been built with making certain repair, cleanup and tasks easier, faster and better.

More and more tools will be added to the program over time. Many of the tools have so many options, control and features that they could have been full programs on their own. But the goal was to have everything in one spot.

Here are just some of the tools in the program. Also note that the program has full Unicode support!

Quick Tools (Windows Built-in Tools)

Take A Screen Shot

Check Disk (chkdsk) At Next Boot

Run As System Account

Netstat

Network Information

Static IPv4

TCP & UDP Stats

IP Subnet Calculator

IP Address Scanner

Manage Windows Users

Manage Users

Create New Windows User

User Account Properties

Manage Groups

Create New Windows Group

Group Properties

Bulk Manage Users Tool

Delete, Move Or Rename Locked Files At Bootup

Svchost.exe Lookup

Process Information

Windows Services

Windows Services Safe Mode

Windows Shutdown Timer

CPU Monitor

Drives Monitor

Memory Monitor

Network Monitor

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Tails – Tails is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly.

It is a complete operating system designed to be used from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card independently of the computer’s original operating system. It is Free Software and based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc.

It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to:

use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship;

all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network;

leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly;

use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

 

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Report: Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Police Operating Domestic Black Site – Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Police Department is operating a CIA-style black site on the city’s West Side, according to an explosive new report from The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman. The facility, an otherwise plain warehouse known as Homan Square, also houses military-style vehicles, according to Ackerman.

The Guardian reports that the CPD detains mostly poor, black and brown people at Homan. Once at the site, detainees are allegedly beaten by police, shackled for hours and denied access to counsel. There is no booking at Homan Square, so details about who has been detained at the facility are scarce. “Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are,” Ackerman wrote. “Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts.”

One detainee, 44-year-old John Hubbard, died in an interview room at Homan. There are no official records — or a coroner’s report — concerning Hubbard’s official cause of death, or why he was detained in the first place.

European Lawmakers Demand Answers on Phone Key Theft – European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday.

The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys.

The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.”

“Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal.

Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”

Former FBI Director Defends Metadata Collection – The current practices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court are effective and don’t need to be changed, according to former FBI director Robert Mueller.

“Yes, it’s worthwhile. Metadata of telephone companies is terribly helpful,” Mueller said, speaking Tuesday morning at an American Bar Association breakfast held at the the University Club in Washington, D.C.

Mueller cited the example of the Boston Marathon bombing as evidence that bulk collection is important, saying that analysis of metadata was able to rule out potential associates of the Tsarnaev brothers. “They had additional IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices],” Mueller said, adding that bulk collection helped prevent a second attack.

Metadata collection, he said, “is tremendously helpful in identifying contacts.”

The FISA court’s bulk metadata collection program has come under intense scrutiny in light of disclosures made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Congress now has until the end of May to decide whether to reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the bulk collection program.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 24, 2015

Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You;  This Is the Best Mac Security Software You Can Buy;  This Is the Best PC Security Software You Can Buy;  19 Hidden Chrome Features That Will Make Your Life Easier;  10 good Android apps for productivity;  Free OCR: Turn a picture of text into real text without spending a dime;  18 Google Maps Tricks You Need to Try;  Hands On With YouTube Kids;  Google-owned Blogger bans sexually explicit content;  Timeline: Google’s role in global sex censorship;  Worse than Superfish? Comodo-affiliated PrivDog;  Security experts call for halt to PC crapware;  9 really weird movies you can watch for free;  Cable TV is speeding up its shows slightly to show you more ads;  Watch 10 years of YouTube’s best viral videos;  Marijuana is roughly 114 times less deadly than alcohol;  Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You – It’s 2015—when we feel sick, fear disease, or have questions about our health, we turn first to the internet. According to the Pew Internet Project, 72 percent of US internet users look up health-related information online. But an astonishing number of the pages we visit to learn about private health concerns—confidentially, we assume—are tracking our queries, sending the sensitive data to third party corporations, even shipping the information directly to the same brokers who monitor our credit scores. It’s happening for profit, for an “improved user experience,” and because developers have flocked to “free” plugins and tools provided by data-vacuuming companies.

TIME: This Is the Best PC Security Software You Can Buy – We analyzed the best free and paid security software for Windows-based computers that closely matched the “ideal” solution, calculating test results from independent security experts, consumer sites, and technology specialists. Paid software had to not only meet top security ratings, but it had to cost less than $100 per year, be marketed for personal computers, and offer coverage for multiple PCs. And for freeware, we wanted something that had equally strong ratings, was easy to use, and offered a little something extra over the other freebies out there. Here are our picks.

TIME: This Is the Best Mac Security Software You Can Buy – We placed an emphasis on performance and security over a trunk full of features. To find the best freeware, it had to meet top-notch security ratings while still offering a few perks. For paid software, we decided it had to not only achieve high security ratings, but it had to cost less than $100, offer a one-year subscription with multi-device protection, and be designed for home use. With that, we narrowed it down to our two security software picks — one free, one paid — for 2015.

19 Hidden Chrome Features That Will Make Your Life Easier – One of the reasons for Chrome’s popularity is its clean, polished UI and its versatility. While Chrome’s abilities multiply greatly when you consider the near-bottomless library of extensions, there’s a bounty of stock functionality embedded all throughout Chrome’s guts that you may not even know about. Click through our slideshow for a list of 19 hidden tricks hidden inside Chrome that you really need to be using.

10 good Android apps for productivity – Android tablets come in all sizes, making it a sure bet you can find one that helps you be productive. To get the most work done using a tablet requires apps that can handle work tasks. Finding such apps can be a chore given the number of apps in the Google Play store. We’ve done the work for you and present 10 good apps for Android tablets. They range from well-known office suite apps to some more obscure apps that will increase your productivity. Most of the apps have a free version that makes it easy to try, and some add a premium version that adds additional functionality for a nominal fee.

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Free OCR: Turn a picture of text into real text without spending a dime – You may already have an OCR program. OneNote, the outliner and research organizer that comes with many versions of Microsoft Office, has had OCR capabilities since version 2007. If you don’t have Microsoft Office, OneNote is also available as a free download, although you will be required to use or create a Microsoft account. Using it for OCR is very simple. Just copy and paste the image into a OneNote page. Then right-click the image and select Copy Text. OneNote will OCR-copy any text it finds in the image text to the clipboard.

Nutshell Camera turns your photos into mini-movies – Or maybe it turns mini-movies into artistic expressions. Whatever the case, it’s pretty cool. It’s fun, it’s free and it’s definitely different from other apps that let you share snippets of your life.

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18 Google Maps Tricks You Need to Try – The very fact that this technology exists (and is available for free) should be the lead story on the news every night: “Breaking News: all humans are still omniscient beings with God-like powers of teleportation!” But that’s not how we see things. We just take these superpowers for granted. Which is kind of sad, really. Regardless of how you feel about it, Google Maps (and its cousin Google Earth) remain powerful and versatile tools—and most of us are only scratching at the surface of what they have to offer. (And we’re just talking about the Web version, the mobile incarnations are a whole other bag of magic.) Here, we present 18 cool things you didn’t know Google Maps could do. Click on through and experience just a little bit of the power of the everyday.

Hands On With “YouTube Kids,” Google’s Newly Launched, Child-Friendly YouTube App – Today, much to the delight of families everywhere, that app has now arrived, complete with a simplified design, a curated selection of kid-safe content, parental controls, and more. Google says the app will be made available to families on both Android and iOS devices, contrary to earlier reports that YouTube Kids would be Android-first. There’s been a need for an app like this for some time – in fact, parents’ desires for a safer video service for their children even led a number of startups to jump in and fill the void, as YouTube itself was dropping the ball.

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Here are 40 of the best apps available for the Kindle Fire, and Kindle Fire HD and HDX – Some of the apps that made this list focus on collaboration and task-management, while others are designed for consuming videos, books, music, and other media. Some apps are great for the whole family, and others, such as those for taking private notes or accessing personal documents, you might want to keep as your own little secret. Missing from this list are apps that come pre-installed on the Kindle Fire, which include Pulse, Audible, IMDb, Quickoffice, Facebook, and a few others. Many of these apps are indispensable, but, seeing as you already have them, there’s no need to mention them.

Apple’s Latest Betas Bring More Diversity To Emoji – Apple is adding more diverse emoji options to both iOS and OS X, new developer preview builds reveal. These includes various skin color options for emojis featuring people, faces, hands and other exposed skin, as well as new country flags that add to the rather limited original set. The new skin tone options are available as alternates when a user clicks (or taps) and holds on any of the face, hand or people emoji, offering a further six skin color selections for any given enjoy in the People section where it’s applicable (meaning not the space invader, ghost, poo, skull or mask emojis, for instance).

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Google-owned Blogger bans sexually explicit content – Google-owned blogging platform Blogger will no longer allow its users to post sexually explicit content, the company confirmed today. In a statement sent via email to selected Blogger users, Google said it would no longer allow blogs to feature “graphic nude images or video” from March 23rd. Any blogs that continued to show explicit images would be made private after that date — while graphic images and videos would remain, Google says they would only be visible to the blog owner, admins, and other people who the owner shared it with.

Timeline: Google’s role in global sex censorship – While you were busy freaking out about government surveillance, censorship blossomed at the one corporation that has the most power to fight — or enable — suppression of speech: Google.

9 been-around-the-block Office tips – Just because a tip has been used for a long time doesn’t mean it isn’t new to you. Learn a few of Susan Harkins’ old but reliable tips for working more efficiently in Office.

How to Create an App for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone – Like the early days of the Web, several tools have risen that will allow anyone to create a product with little-to-no programming language. (But if you have the coding skills, it will give you the ability to make a truly unique thing). These third-party services will even handle the process of submitting your app to the various stores (e.g. Google Play, the iOS App Store, or the Windows Phone app store). We’ll get into some of those services below, but let’s start with a very basic overview of each environment and how to break in all by yourself.

Security:

Worse than Superfish? Comodo-affiliated PrivDog compromises web security too – PrivDog is marketed as a solution to protect users against malicious advertising without completely blocking ads. The program is designed to replace potentially bad ads with safer ones that are reviewed by a compliance team from a company called Adtrustmedia. As Abdulhayoglu puts it in a January 2014 post on his personal blog in which he describes the technology: “Consumers win, Publishers win, Advertisers win.” However, according to people who recently looked at PrivDog’s HTTPS interception functionality, consumers might actually lose when it comes to their system’s security if they use the product.

Gemalto says NSA SIM card hack might not be so bad after all – Late last week, Edward Snowden revealed another bombshell. In his ongoing quest to reveal the scope of NSA spying, he announced the NSA and GCHQ (NSA’s UK counterpart) hacked a major SIM card provider, Gemalto, in an attempt to get the ‘keys’ to your phone. In hacking your phone via the SIM, the NSA and GCHQ would be able to bypass the carriers, and keep a watchful eye on you with no one being the wiser. In response to the report, Gemalto is now saying it might not be a problem at all.

Chrome warns users of devious software that could impact Google’s business – Google has added an early warning alert to Chrome that pops up when users try to access a website that the search giant suspects will try to dupe users into downloading underhanded software. The new alert pops up in Chrome when a user aims the browser at a suspect site but before the domain is displayed. “The site ahead contains harmful programs,” the warning states. Google emphasized tricksters that “harm your browsing experience,” and cited those that silently change the home page or drop unwanted ads onto pages in the warning’s text.

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Your phone’s power usage can reveal where you’ve been – When you think of smartphone location tracking, both legitimate or otherwise, and you will most likely think of technologies that directly relate to locations, like GPS, WiFi, or even Bluetooth. But a group of researchers from Standford University and Israeli defense group Rafael are proving even something so innocent sounding like your phone’s battery consumption can be used to track your movements. The good news is that it’s not exactly as easy or as informational as those more dedicated sensors. At least not yet.

Security experts call for halt to PC ‘crapware’ after Lenovo debacle – Security professionals want Lenovo — and other PC makers — to stop the practice of loading third-party software on new PCs after one such app was found to be vulnerable to abuse by cyber criminals.

Company News:

First lawsuit filed against Lenovo for Superfish adware – Things are getting serious for Lenovo, as the first lawsuit from their Superfish spyware scandal has been filed in a California court by Jessica Bennett. This is the first lawsuit in what may be a series of legal troubles for Lenovo. This different from run-of-the-mill adware that one might find from a scheduled virus check. Lenovo has been caught putting pre-installed adware from a company called Superfish on their products. This was exceptionally dangerous to Lenovo consumers because it not only leaked their data but left them vulnerable to outside attacks.

Facebook’s Data Protection Practices Under Fresh Fire In Europe – Facebook is facing fresh criticism in Europe over data protection and the myriad smoke-and-mirrors methods it uses to obfuscate its gathering and processing of user data. A report commissioned by Belgium’s data protection authority has found Facebook’s revised privacy policy, last updated in January, violates European consumer protection law in a number of ways.

Google’s privacy policy: Italians probing a little deeper – Google is to be subject to regular on-site spot checks by the Italian data protection regulator under moves to ensure the Chocolate Factory complies with the country’s privacy laws. “For the first time in Europe, it will be the subject of regular checks to monitor progress status of the actions to bring its platform into line with domestic legislation,” said the county’s data protection authority. Quarterly updates on the firm’s progress will be conducted, with the regulator to carry out on-the-spot checks at Google’s US headquarters to verify whether the measures being implemented are in compliance with Italian law. Google will have to be fully compliant with the measures by 15 January 2016.

Twitter Throws Its Weight Behind The FCC’s Net Neutrality Push – Twitter backs the FCC’s push to pass new net neutrality regulations it underlined today, publishing a blog post calling for the passage of open Internet rules that will prevent throttling, paid prioritization. The company also advocated for the regulation of wireless connections under net neutrality rules. The FCC will vote on its open Internet proposal later this week.

Target.com Undercuts Amazon And Walmart With New Free Shipping Minimums – Target today announced a change to its e-commerce site designed to undercut competitors like Amazon and Walmart: It dropped the minimum requirements for free shipping from $50 previously down to just $25. This means that the free shipping minimum requirement from Target is now actually $10 less than it is on Amazon, and half of Walmart’s minimum. While Amazon Prime subscribers are able to choose from over 20 million items available for free two-day shipping, non-subscribers or those buying outside of the Prime catalog have to build orders that are $35 or more in order to qualify for Amazon’s free shipping option.

Google snaps up IP from Softcard, strikes deal with carriers for Wallet – Google Wallet is no Apple Pay, largely because Google can’t play the strong-arm game Apple does about what software is on their iPhone. Not long ago, Google Wallet was sidelined by carriers, as they intended to create their own mobile payment system. Known as Softcard, the app did much of what Google Wallet did, except it had the blessing of carriers. According to a new report, the line between Softcard and Google Wallet (as well as carriers) is blurring.

Games and Entertainment:

The Windows Store’s scam apps will be a problem as Xbox and Windows 10 intertwine – In fairness, Microsoft isn’t alone in battling scams and clones, and we’ve seen similarissues on platforms such as iOS. And to Microsoft’s credit, the company is trying to crack down on bad actors after the issue gained wider attention last year. But as I’ve written before, the Windows Store faces a unique challenge in taking the quantity-over-quality app store model and applying it to the PC. While that model works fairly well for phones and tablets, it doesn’t translate well to laptops and desktops, where people are expecting substantial, high-quality software.

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The new Xbox app in Windows 10.

Nvidia hit with class-action lawsuit over graphics card RAM issues – What started as an arcane debate among hardcore hardware spec analyzers has now become a legal headache for Nvidia. The graphics card maker is facing a class-action lawsuit in the Northern District of California over allegations that it falsely advertised the total hardware power in the GTX 970 graphics card released late last year. In marketing materials and reviewer guides provided when the GTX 970 launched in September, Nvidia advertised a card that had 4GB of high-speed GDDR5 RAM. Earlier this year, though, many users online reported performance issues when trying to utilize the entirety of that RAM, including stuttering and crashing on games and video editing applications.

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Nvidia backtracks on mobile GPU overclocking, new driver set to enable it again – Nvidia has responded to the criticism it received in its customer forums for disabling the overclocking features of their 900M series of GPUs stating it will roll back changes in a new driver update.

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9 really weird movies you can watch for free – You could look for the best films for free online, but that’s boring and predictable. How about some of the strangest? These nine movies are bizarre, unique, and deserve your viewing at least once because of how weird they are. No, they’re not the absolute weirdest films on the Internet, because that’s a rabbit hole with no bottom. However, they’re some fascinating movies you can watch on Hulu, Crackle, Shout! Factory TV, and even YouTube right now, legitimately and for free.

‘Morningstar’ and ‘Decay: The Mare’ are snack-sized games bursting with point-and-click nostalgia – This weekend I took a break from big-budget, explosion fare to dig through the backlog of indie games we’ve accumulated since the start of the year. I wanted something small and easily consumable, and two titles stood out—Morningstar: Descent to Deadrock and Decay: The Mare. The two have a lot in common. They’re both point-and-click adventures, and they both clock in around two hours long. In other words, they’re both the types of games that are hard to fit into our standard reviews format, so they get the honor of ending up bundled here together.

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Valve announces SteamVR, debuting at next week’s Game Developers Conference – That device, dubbed “SteamVR,” is described as a “previously unannounced hardware system,” and it will debut at next week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco alongside “the refined Steam Controller” and “new living room devices.” The brief announcement included no virtual reality device mock-ups or announcements of compatible games. In fact, we can’t imagine many compatible games exist yet, as the announcement noted that Valve Software “is actively seeking VR content creators.” As such, the Steam Universe portal now includes a contact form to schedule GDC demos with Valve to test out the SteamVR Dev Kit.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Cable TV is speeding up its shows slightly to show you more ads – It’s not news that reruns of Friends aren’t what cable TV really wants you to be watching. Networks make money by showing ads, and for years those networks have been looking for ways to pack in more and more quick spots to get you to buy Charmin, Tide, and Viagra. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that many networks are desperately trying to increase the number of commercials you watch per hour, sometimes resorting to subtly speeding up older shows and reruns in an effort to recapture the revenue from tanking ratings. The Journal notes that TBS used compression technology to speed up the Wizard of Oz during its airing last November, causing pop-culture writer Stephen Cox to notice that the munchkins’ voices were pitched higher than normal. TBS, TNT, and TV Land have also sped up shows including Seinfeld and Friends.

FCC Republicans launch last-ditch effort to sink net neutrality plan – With the Federal Communications Commission scheduled to vote on net neutrality rules Thursday, the commission’s two Republicans want to delay the vote by at least 30 days. Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly want the commission to break with past practice by releasing the entire proposal before the vote. Typically, the FCC releases a summary of the proposal but not the entire document until after it votes on it.

Buddha statue contains mummy in “advanced state of meditation” – The man inside this statue is dead according to conventional knowledge and science – but don’t tell him that. The Netherlands-based Drents Museum at the Meander Medical Centre in Amersfoort has taken to scanning this particular fellow recently. The only Chinese buddhist mummy “available in the West for scientific research,” they say, and Erik Bruijn, buddhist art and culture expert, is in charge of the project. Under his care, this reliquary – as its being called – has been under close watch, and ceremonies before scans have been implemented. The CT scan that took place weeks ago had very little to do with the idea that this mummified man was still “in meditation.” Instead, the case here and similar cases are believed by some buddhists to be part of a similar ending – the tukdam state – for advanced monks.

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Mummified buddhist master Liu Quan. Statue (L), CT scan (R). (Photos: Drents Museum)

Will gravestones of the future represent your digital life? – A new artwork at Science Gallery Dublin imagines how all the data that we’re accumulating could be brought back into the real world to define us after death. It places statistics about a person on a gravestone — number of Twitter followers, eBay feedback, Tinder matches, and so on — all of which is informative but fails to actually reveal anything about the human behind the numbers. That may be the ultimate irony of lifelogging: it can help us live and record everything that we do, but it says very little about who we actually are.

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Watch 10 years of YouTube’s best viral videos – YouTube launched 10 years ago this month, and what a decade it has been. Since the days of Charlie the Unicorn, we’ve seen the site become a breeding ground for a whole generation of #brands, artists, and political actors. Thankfully, there’s still all sorts of weirdness filling its servers. YouTube channel The Daily Conversation compiled some of the best viral videos of the last 10 years into one 16-minute retrospective, and it makes for a really nostalgic trip down digital memory lane.

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Marijuana is much safer than alcohol or tobacco, according to a new study – Marijuana is roughly 114 times less deadly than alcohol, according to recent findings published in the journal Scientific Reports. Of the seven drugs included in the study, alcohol was the deadliest at an individual level, followed by heroin, cocaine, tobacco, ecstasy, methamphetamines, and marijuana. Previous studies consistently ranked marijuana as the safest recreational drug, but it was not known that the discrepancy was this large. The researchers determined the mortality risk by comparing a lethal dose of each substance with the amount typically used. Not only was marijuana the lowest of the drugs tested, but there was such a gap between its lethal and typical doses that they classified it as the only “low mortality risk” drug tested. All others were classified as “medium” or “high.”

How to optimize your home lighting design based on color temperature – Once you understand what color temperature is and why it matters, you can choose the right types of light bulbs to improve the quality of your life at home.

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The color temperature of your home lighting can have a significant impact.

Something to think about:

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

–   Harry J. AnslingerAssistant Prohibition Commissioner in the Bureau of Prohibition, first Commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) (1930-1962, 32 years), US Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool – Bitdefender Adware Removal Tool for PC is a free app that identifies and removes unwanted apps such as adware, malicious hijacker programs, annoying toolbars and other browser add-ons. Keep the apps you like, get rid of the programs that bug you. The tool will only erase those apps that you wish to be removed. It scans your computer for adware, and produces a list of apps marked for removal. App is portable, no install or uninstall needed.

How it works: It scans your computer for adware, and produces a list of apps marked for removal. You will be able to choose what to keep on your computer.

 

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DiskBoss – DiskBoss is an advanced file and disk management solution allowing one to search and classify files, perform disk space utilization analysis, detect and remove duplicate files, organize files according to user-defined rules and policies, copy large amounts of files in a fault-tolerant way, synchronize disks and directories, cleanup wasted disk space, etc.

All file management operations are integrated in a centralized and easy-to-use GUI application with a built-in file navigator allowing one to execute any required operation in a single mouse click. Frequently used file management operations may be pre-configured as user-defined commands and executed using the GUI application or direct desktop shortcuts.

Features:

Disk Space Utilization Analysis

Classification and Categorization

Duplicate Files Finder and Cleaner

High-Speed File Synchronization

Real-Time Disk Change Monitor

File Copy and Data Migration

File Delete and Data Wiping

Rule-Based File Organizing

Rule-Based File Search

Command Line Utility

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Yahoo exec goes mano a mano with NSA director over crypto backdoors – Echoing the concerns of many US-based technology companies have about US-led surveillance programs, Yahoo Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos asked the director of the National Security Agency some pointed questions concerning proposed or existing backdoors placed in encryption technologies. The responses from NSA director Adm. Mike Rogers only underscored the growing divide.

The frank exchange occurred Monday at the Cybersecurity for a New America conference in Washington DC. It came 17 months after materials leaked by former NSA subcontractor Edward Snowden documented NSA-engineered backdoors were built into widely used cryptography technologies so that government agents could decrypt communications. Critics have since warned that the policy could backfire on US citizens, since backdoors can be exploited by governments of a variety of countries. Rogers clearly disagreed, but his denials were notable for a lack of technical detail.

What follows is an excerpt of the exchange, as first provided by website Just Security:

Secrets become history: Edward Snowden in the Oscar-winning Citizenfour – Citizenfour is filmmaker Laura Poitras’ account of the first meetings between herself, Glenn Greenwald, and Edward Snowden. It was first shown publicly last Friday, and it will open in theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco on October 24.

For those who have followed the news around the Snowden documents, even in small doses, Citizenfour isn’t full of revelations (though there are a few surprises). But for viewers interested in surveillance, or the future of the Internet, or journalism—it won’t matter. The film is riveting, and its power is in its source material.

Poitras filmed Snowden for 20 hours over eight days in his Hong Kong hotel, and her film has now given the world an unfiltered portrait of the man who, in the course of the year, became the West’s most wanted dissident.

“Suspicious male in possession of flight simulator game” lawsuit moves ahead – In an order issued Friday, a federal judge in San Francisco has allowed a case challenging the National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI) to move forward by denying the government’s motion to dismiss.

The current case, known as Gill et al. v. Department of Justice et al (Gill v. DOJ), seeks to halt the standards that define the entire NSI program. If Gill was successful, it could effectively stop it.

Lead plaintiff Wiley Gill is a white man who converted to Islam as a student at California State University, Chico, and he drew the attention of the Chico Police Department in May 2012. (Chico is about 180 miles due north of San Francisco.) According to the SAR about Gill, the officer entered Gill’s residence in response to an apparent domestic violence incident (Gill was home alone). The officer then saw on a webpage “titled something similar to ‘Games that fly under the radar’” on Gill’s computer.

“Coupled with the fact he is unemployed, appears to shun law enforcement contact, has potential access to flight simulators via the Internet which he tried to minimize is worthy of note,” the SAR, entitled “Suspicious Male Subject in Possession of Flight Simulator Game,” concludes.

Snowden Does Reddit – Edward Snowden, who you might have heard of by now, took to Reddit today along with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Poitras won an Oscar last night for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Poitras’ winning film, CITIZENFOUR, covers when Greenwald, the filmmaker, and Snowden were together in Hong Kong, right before the documents were leaked and the world changed.

I’m no film critic, but I can understand why the film won the award — it’s a raw look at a moment in history that has proven to be geopolitically pivotal, leading to change at the level of nations and multinational corporations.

The Reddit session is much of what you would expect — you can read the full episode here — but there is one Snowden answer I think is worth highlighting in response to a question concerning how to bring domestic surveillance back to the fore of discussion, and perhaps to make it into an issue for the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s Snowden, at full length:

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 20, 2015

How to clean Superfish and other crap off your PC;  Restore a Windows 8 or Windows 7 image backup to an unbootable PC;  iOS 8 is still riddled with show-stopping bugs;  How to transport your files to Google Drive;  YouTube is launching an Android app for children;  Clean up your Windows right-click menu with CCleaner;  I gave away my tablets and don’t at all miss them;  Microsoft OneNote for beginners: Everything you need to know;  Android malware hijacks power button, empties wallet while you sleep;  Hackers still in the State Department’s network, three months after the breach;  No one is too small to hack;  YouTube to unveil paid subscription model in next few months;  Two good apps for desktop publishing and one to avoid.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

THE GREAT SIM HEIST – How spies stole the keys to the encryption castle – American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Leading privacy advocates and security experts say that the theft of encryption keys from major wireless network providers is tantamount to a thief obtaining the master ring of a building superintendent who holds the keys to every apartment. “Once you have the keys, decrypting traffic is trivial,” says Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The news of this key theft will send a shock wave through the security community.”

Beat it, bloatware: How to clean Superfish and other crap off your PC – Preloaded software bogs down your hard drive, your start menu, and worse. We’re looking at you, Superfish. Clean it out with these handy tools and tricks.

You Can’t Remember Good Passwords, So You Need a Password Manager – Just what makes a good password? Well, it can’t contain any names, numbers, or words that someone else could figure out from what’s generally known about you. Your dog’s name, your school mascot, your firstborn’s birthday—those are all no good. It certainly can’t be a single, simple word or number-run like password or 123456. Best would be a random string of characters like 8TMatPL#HAo/#ZE$, but nobody can remember one password like that, let alone one for every secure website. So what can you do?

Five months on and iOS 8 is still riddled with show-stopping bugs – Five months on from the release of iOS 8, and following six rounds of bugfixes, Apple’s flagship mobile platform that powers almost three out of four iPhone and iPads is still riddled with bugs. I’m just going to come out and say it – this is a mess. If we were talking about cosmetic stuff like a badly laid out user interface or poor selection of wallpapers then I could overlook the issues, but they aren’t. These are bugs relating to core systems such as Wi-Fi, cellular connectivity, Bluetooth, and stability and performance. These are show-stopping bugs.

How to transport your files to Google Drive – Need to get somewhere quickly in the year 2265? Star Trek makes it look easy: step onto a platform, wait for someone to press a few buttons, and a transporter beams you to a location nearby. In 2015, Google Drive moves files to Google’s system almost as fast. Select a file (or folder) on your desktop and drag it into a browser window opened to Google Drive. Wait a bit as Google beams the information from your system to theirs. However, if you want to move all of your files from local storage to Google Drive, you need to plan the journey.

Restore a Windows 8 or Windows 7 image backup to an unbootable PC – An image backup can restore a hopelessly messed up Windows installation. But how do you restore a backup when you can’t boot Windows?

Bevy lets you create a private network for sharing pics, videos – Your family is probably spread out over a city, or state — possibly even a country, or continents. Sharing pics is easy via mediums like Facebook, but those avenues don’t lend themselves to private sharing in a straightforward way. There might even be some who aren’t comfortable uploading pics to a source they don’t own and control, which is where Bevy comes into play. Via an app and dedicated storage container, you and your family (or friends, or colleagues) can share pictures privately.

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Clean up your Windows right-click menu with CCleaner – CCleaner released a recent update that added a feature that allows you to clean out random application shortcuts from the right-click menu. This is useful for those apps that either didn’t give you a choice in the matter, or those that used some sneakiness to make the option go unnoticed. Additionally, it’s much better (and likely safer) than manually digging through the registry.

Sony’s latest snake oil: Pricey ‘Premium Sound’ Micro SDXC cards – Need the perfect expandable storage solution for your $1,200 Walkman? Sony might have a bridge to sell you. The company is now selling a 64 GB Micro SDXC card “for Premium Sound” in Japan. At $160, it’s four or five times more expensive than a typical 64 GB card, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, it’s supposed to produce “less electrical noise.”

Microsoft will give you 100 GB of OneDrive storage if you have a Dropbox account – Microsoft is going after Dropbox with a new promotion that will add 100GB of storage to your OneDrive account if you currently have a Dropbox account. Verification is required.

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I gave away my tablets and don’t at all miss them – Tablets were the new big thing, and the idea of owning one was exciting. Still, I didn’t see a use for them at the time, and so I put off buying one for a while, instead using those extra funds for an extra nice smartphone. Months rolled by and I’d nearly impulse buy a tablet at one point or another, but always held back. What would I do with it? It’d be easier to watch movies while lying around, I reasoned. And I could use it to take notes during class. It’d be lighter than my then-laptop. There was an app for everything! I talked myself into it. Fast-forward a few years. I’ve given away most of my tablets, and I don’t miss them a bit.

YouTube is launching an Android app for children – YouTube will release a new app designed for kids on Monday, the Google-owned video service has confirmed to The Verge. The app — called YouTube Kids — will reportedly offer original episodes of TV shows aimed at youngsters, in addition to videos from child-centric channels on YouTube, and will let parents set timers to stop their spawn from watching too long. YouTube Kids will reportedly be distinct from YouTube’s regular app, and at first, will only be available on Android smartphones and tablets.

Two good apps for desktop publishing and one to avoid – Yes, you can create professional-looking brochures, flyers, and more using a mobile app on a tablet (or a phone, if you’re masochistic and patient). But choose carefully–we found a couple of good ones to try.

Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter now available in 25 new markets, more coming soon – The Wireless Display Adapter first went on sale in the US in October for $59.95 (excluding taxes) and today, Microsoft announced that it is now on sale in 25 new markets. The company said that it has “expanded sales of the device to most countries in Europe, as well as South Africa.” Microsoft also says that it will launch the adapter in even more countries next month, including Australia, and various markets across Asia. You can find out more about the Wireless Display Adapter in our detailed hands-on with the device.

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Microsoft OneNote for beginners: Everything you need to know – Microsoft’s purple paper eater may just help restore your sanity when you’re fighting digital clutter.

Security:

Android malware hijacks power button, empties wallet while you sleep – Security biz AVG has spotted an outbreak of a new kind of Android malware that will come alive even when the phone is supposedly switched off. The software nasty is able to do this by hijacking the mobe’s power-off sequence. “After pressing the power button, you will see the real shutdown animation, and the phone appears off. Although the screen is black, it is still on,” said the firm’s mobile security team in an advisory. “While the phone is in this state, the malware can make outgoing calls, take pictures and perform many other tasks without notifying the user.”

Lenovo PCs ship with man-in-the-middle adware that breaks HTTPS connections – The critical threat is present on Lenovo PCs that have adware from a company called Superfish installed. As unsavory as many people find software that injects ads into Web pages, there’s something much more nefarious about the Superfish package. It installs a self-signed root HTTPS certificate that can intercept encrypted traffic for every website a user visits. When a user visits an HTTPS site, the site certificate is signed and controlled by Superfish and falsely represents itself as the official website certificate. Even worse, the private encryption key accompanying the Superfish-signed Transport Layer Security certificate appears to be the same for every Lenovo machine. Attackers may be able to use the key to certify imposter HTTPS websites that masquerade as Bank of America, Google, or any other secure destination on the Internet. Under such a scenario, PCs that have the Superfish root certificate installed will fail to flag the sites as forgeries—a failure that completely undermines the reason HTTPS protections exist in the first place.

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The Superfish certificate has been cracked, exposing Lenovo users to attack – Lenovo’s Superfish bug just went from bad to worse, as researchers have turned up an easy way to take advantage of the security flaws opened up by the pre-installed software. The bug has come under fire for breaking fundamental web security protocols, routing all encryption through a single password-protected certificate authority owned by a third-party adware company that makes Superfish. Anyone with the password that unlocks that certificate authority would be able to completely bypass the computer’s web encryption. The cracked certificate exposes Lenovo users to man-in-the-middle attacks, similar to those opened up by Heartbleed.

The safest way to escape from Superfish is to wipe your PC yourself. Here’s how – If you have an affected Lenovo PC, we’ve outlined the multi-step process for removing the software and the root certificate here. If you want to be sure that everything is completely removed (and if you’re willing to do the work), the more comprehensive solution is to completely reinstall Windows yourself. It’s not for everyone, but there are benefits to doing it this way—you get a totally clean PC that you’re in full control over. Most OEMs don’t include vanilla Windows install media with their systems anymore. They usually opt to include a restore partition, and that restore image usually has all the same crapware in it that shipped with the PC in the first place. We’ll walk you through the basics of getting install media, installing Windows, and creating a new clean recovery image.

Hackers still in the State Department’s network, three months after the breach – The US State Department, the NSA, and the FBI have had no luck in removing or blocking hackers from the State Department’s network in the three months since the breach was first reported.

No one is too small to hack – Smaller companies shouldn’t be complacent in the thought that cyberattackers have bigger game in their sights.

Australia: Three-strike piracy code draft targets residential internet users – Film studios and ISPs have released a new draft code that is aimed at curbing the number of Australians who illicitly download TV shows, films, and music online.

Company News:

YouTube to unveil paid subscription model in next few months – Google has been striving to wean YouTube from its dependence on ad revenues for some time now. The world’s largest streaming site, which has been offering paid channel subscriptions since 2013 and an ad-free, paid music experience called Music Key (currently in invitation-only beta) since November, looks set to take things a step further.

Apple Is Aiming to Produce Its Own Electric Car by 2020 – Apple wants to start producing its own cars, Bloomberg reports, citing unnamed sources privy to the company’s plans, who say the tech giant is pressuring its teams to work towards the production of an electric vehicle within the next five years. Meanwhile, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, whose company is attempting to release its own affordable electric car by 2017 and serves as Apple’s main competitor in the automotive sphere, told Bloomberg this month that Apple is offering his workers $250,000 signing bonuses and a 60 percent salary increase to jump ship.

Apple sued for poaching auto engineers and battery experts – Apple is being sued by A123 for poaching some of its most important engineers, which seemingly violates their non-compete clause. The engineers are helping Apple build a large battery division.

Ryanair, Vodafone partner for paperless cockpits, in-flight POS – Ryanair has a no-frills approach to air travel. Founded in 1985, Ryanair’s concept is getting you from point A to point B, quickly and efficiently. Part of their strategy involves a digital footprint that they rely heavily on, with travelers often needing to check-in online before heading to the airport. In a deal with Vodafone, their digital identity is growing, with in-flight digital point-of-sale terminals and a paperless cockpit. It’ll be iPads galore in the air for Ryanair.

Games and Entertainment:

Jolly Jam: Angry Birds maker makes its own Candy Crush – Rovio is about to try its luck with a Candy Crush-LIKE game, I suppose we should say. Not like it’s the same game – and not like there isn’t a precedent for creating games like this, like Bejeweled turning into a game about candy, or anything like that. And forbid it that there ever be a game like Bejeweled that takes what Dr. Mario was – or what Tetris was – and evolves it into something entirely new, with a smidgen of the old game in its bones.

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Finally! Xbox One, meet Screenshots – It is almost mind boggling that such a basic need, like taking a screenshot to boast about your latest in-game triumph, would take so long to implement. But they say that good things come to those who wait, and those who wait need to wait just a little bit longer. Screenshot capability is finally coming to the Xbox One console when the latest system update rolls to everyone in March. Fortunately, that’s not the only reason to be excited about this update.

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Hulu captures exclusive streaming rights to every season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – Hulu has scored a point in the ongoing battle between TV and movie streaming services — the company has secured the exclusive rights to stream CSI: Crime Scene Investigation through its Hulu Plus subscription service. This is the first time the long-running CBS show has made its way to streaming video-on-demand services, and subscribers will be able to stream every episode of the show from April.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Fantastic Adobe video spotlights 25 years of Photoshop artistry – To celebrate Photoshop’s 25th anniversary, Adobe releases a video featuring tons of creations by artists worldwide. The video, of course, was made entirely in Photoshop.

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Internet to be classified as a public utility if UK Parliament has its way – Many people around the world feel like internet is as important as water or electricity making it feel like a utility to many. Lawmakers in the US want to classify internet as a utility with backlash from many groups who fear that putting the government in more control of internet access would ruin net neutrality. In the UK, the upper house of parliament known as the House of Lords is also clamoring for internet access to be reclassified as a public utility.

Worldwide flights visualization shows how busy our skies really are – Anyone who’s been on a flight in the past few years knows that, despite rising fuel costs and ongoing economic turmoil, people are traveling a lot and our airports keep on getting busier. But better than just looking at the data is visualizing it, and that’s exactly what software engineer Callum Prentice has done using WebGL in a web browser. You can see the results by visiting his Flight Stream page, but be warned if you have a slower computer it may take a while to load, or fail to. You also need a browser that support WebGL, which most modern browsers do.

Apple boss Tim Cook wants you to read this book – Congressman John Lewis shared the stage with Martin Luther King when he uttered his ever reverberating “Have a dream” speech; yesterday, he shared a stage with Apple CEO, Tim Cook. Congressman Lewis was visiting Apple as he publicizes his book(s), March and March 2. March was the first graphic novel ever to receive a Robert F Kennedy Book Award. He was also at Apple to mark Black History Month. “It is a very unique way to present what is probably the most important story of my entire lifetime,” Tim Cook said when introducing Congressman Lewis at Apple HQ. “My hope is that everyone reads this and I would love to see the day that it is required reading in every school.” The books depict a sequence of events that began fifty years ago with Bloody Sunday and the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, which seems particularly poignant in light of the “Hands up, don’t shoot” protests.

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Time Warner Cable calls customer “C**t” after she reports cable box problem – Time Warner Cable (TWC) isn’t yet a part of Comcast, but it’s taking after its potential parent company in one very unfortunate way. Comcast customers have complained about their billing account names being changed to insults like “asshole,” “whore,” “dummy,” and “super bitch.” Now, the same thing has happened to a Time Warner Cable customer named Esperanza Martinez. Martinez, of Orange County, California, provided Ars a copy of this letter she just got from Time Warner Cable:

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After being contacted by Ars, Time Warner Cable admitted that one of its representatives changed Martinez’s first name to “Cunt” in the cable company’s computer system.

Something to think about:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

–     H.L. Mencken

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 19, 2015

Google pushes back on expansion of FBI hacking powers;  Thousands Join Legal Fight Against UK Surveillance — And You Can, Too;  Give your notebook a storage upgrade;  Best Antivirus Products Honored by AV-Test Institute;  10 best practices for voice-based applications;  5 free tools for editing images on a Chromebook;  The World’s 10 Best Tablets Are;  Top Adult Site RedTube Compromised, Redirects to Malware;  Internet of Things security check; Lenovo pre-installs adware on its systems, which could also steal your private data;  Reddit giving 10% of 2014 ad revenue to charity;  Companies Fighting US Government Barred From Naming Themselves, Because Security;  Xbox One March preview update;  This Museum Is Building a Video Game Hall of Fame;  Andy the Android emulator (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google pushes back on expansion of FBI hacking powers – As US law enforcement agencies look for more power over the digital realm, they’re facing increasing pushback from tech companies, particularly Google’s public policy arm. With a recent filing, Google pushed back against an obscure committee measure that would seek to give the FBI increased warrant power to seek out servers involved in illegal activity. The measure didn’t attract much attention when it was introduced to the Department of Justice last year, but today Google put it on the front page of the company’s public policy blog, calling out the measure as “a small rule change that could give the US government sweeping new warrant power.”

The World’s 10 Best Tablets Are – Looking for something to bridge the gap between laptop and smartphone? With Android, Apple, and Windows options, these ten top-rated tablets fit the bill. We tried them all, so you don’t have to. Here are our analysts’ picks of the world’s 10 best tablets.

Best Antivirus Products Honored by AV-Test Institute – The dedicated researchers at AV-Test Institute run constant tests on several dozen popular antivirus products under several different versions of Windows. Six times each year, they summarize their findings by rating and reporting on those products. This week marks AV-Test’s 2014 awards for the products that rated best in several different criteria.

Give your notebook a storage upgrade – Processors and RAM are fixed entities in a PC, but right from day one data is incessantly eating away at your storage space. And it’s not just your data (which you can manage) but endless gigabytes of temp files and cached junk.

10 best practices for voice-based applications – From automated phone systems to call center analytics to voice recognition features, the scope and importance of voice-based apps in the enterprise continues to grow.

How to sideload apps onto Amazon’s Fire TV – Installing apps from the Google Play Store can greatly expand your streaming-video catalog. We’ll show you the tricks to make it work.

iFixit now has an Android DIY repair portal – When new devices come out, we often look to iFixit for the lowdown on what’s under the hood. We also look to them for guidance on best practices for fixing things, or at least how much we can expect to spend for someone else to do it. For the DIY repair crowd, though, the site is an invaluable tool, and just became a lot more useful. Now, the iFixit crew has an Android portal, so you can repair your cracked Android everything.

5 free tools for editing images on a Chromebook – The native image editor built into Chromebooks is hidden and weak, but Chrome OS doesn’t support the powerful desktop image editing software available for Windows. Don’t fear! These free tools can help you tweak your pictures.

New Talking Barbie Can Have 2-Way Conversations With Kids – Imaginary conversations with dolls are so 20th century. A new Internet-connected Barbie arriving on store shelves this fall will let kids have two-way conversations with the doll. The necklace on the doll will feature both the microphone and the speaker that help enable the conversations. Hello Barbie will retail for $74.99 when it launches, likely in time for the holiday season. The doll requires a Wi-Fi connection to talk, though kids can of course continue to use Barbie the old-fashioned way when the Internet’s down.

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Hello Barbie is displayed at the Mattel showroom at the North American International Toy Fair in New York City on Feb. 14, 2015.

Cost for continued Windows XP support said to double this year – As it stands, commercial users of Windows XP pay around $200 per PC annually to see software support for the now-retired OS, but in two months the cost of support is expected to jump to $400 per PC annually, with a possible cap of $500,000 for an entire business should the number of supported PCs exceed the half-million dollar mark. As of this moment, the annual cap sits at $250,000. These updates tend to be security-related and are only meant as a temporary solution since Microsoft has made it clear that the support for XP will only exist for three years following the retirement of the OS.

Gmail mass email tips: Avoid the spammy look with the personalized touch – Make it look special (even if it was sent to 75 other people). Create your own mail merge in minutes, with some help from Google Sheets and a free script.

Security:

Top Adult Site RedTube Compromised, Redirects to Malware – This time around, the source of the problem is not malvertising, but rather a malicious iframe placed directly in the source code of redtube[dot]com, a pornographic site that boasts over 300 million visits a month. The attack doesn’t come from a malicious advertisement being loaded on the webpage, like was the case with xHamster, but rather the source code of RedTubes main page was modified to include a hidden piece of redirection code. The code is executed inside of an iFrame, which is basically like a browser window inside of your browser window that can point to any website the attacker wants. In this case the iFrame is set to be completely invisible to the user and navigates to the following malicious URLs:

Internet of Things security check: How 3 smart devices can be dumb about the risks – Internet of Things security is no longer a foggy future issue, as more and more such devices enter the market—and our lives. From self-parking cars to home automation systems to wearable smart devices, analysts currently estimate that some 50 billion to 200 billion devices could be connected to the Internet in 2020. Google CEO Eric Schmidt told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, “there will be so many sensors, so many devices, that you won’t even sense it, it will be all around you,” he said. “It will be part of your presence all the time.” That’s hardly comforting when you consider how many of these smart devices still seem to be pretty dumb about security.

Mall security guards misuse CCTV to allegedly stalk women & share ‘sleaze file’ photos – Security guards in Australia’s Westfield Sydney shopping center are accused of stalking women via the mall’s CCTV before tagging, saving and sharing secret ‘sleaze file’ photos. An unidentified SecureCorp security guard told A Current Affair that the “misuse of security cameras particularly against women has been happening for years and is still happening.” He claims he was fired for blowing the whistle on behavior such as “Zooming in if girls were sitting down with short skirts, they’d zoom in between their legs.” He added, “A lot of it was CCTV footage; they would either burn it to a disk or put it on USB and take it home for their personal use.”

Hoping for spy reforms? Jeb Bush, dangerously close to being the next US prez, backs the NSA – Former Florida governor, brother of former President George W Bush, son of former President George H W Bush, and Republican frontrunner for the 2016 US presidential election, Jeb Bush … has strongly defended the NSA’s mass surveillance of innocent people. Speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as part of his run for the White House, Bush made it clear that if he did become president he would retain the programs introduced under his brother’s administration. Fast forward to the 28-minute mark for the fun to begin in this vid, streamed live on Wednesday, of his talk:

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The NSA’s Undetectable Hard Drive Hack Was First Demonstrated a Year Ago – A group of ordinary security researchers warned this was possible, and in fact installed hard drive backdoors themselves, nearly a year ago. The paper ” Implementation and Implications of a Stealth Hard-Drive Backdoor,” published in March 2014 by a team of eight researchers from Eurecom in France, IBM Research in Zurich, and UCSD and Northeastern University in the US, reads almost exactly like security firm Kaspersky’s expose on the NSA malware. The full paper is absolutely worth your read if you’ve been fascinated by Kaspersky’s revelations.

Lenovo pre-installs adware on its systems, which could also steal your private data – The adware, named Superfish, is reportedly installed on devices out of the box and it’s a bit more difficult to get rid of it than you might expect. The software injects ads when users browse the web, with Google searches being a primary target. A number of antivirus programs report Superfish as adware and recommend uninstalling it. While that sounds pretty horrible it gets much worse. There are some reports showing that Superfish doesn’t just inject ads. It also installs its own security certificate which allows it to decode encrypted data such as the one sent between you and your bank. This could effectively allow the software to perform a man-in-the-middle attack on your private data. Internet Explorer and Chrome could be affected by this, while Firefox is currently safe thanks to its independent certificate repository.

Company News:

Sony throwing in the towel on phones and TVs – Sony’s appetite for struggling through the cutthroat smartphone and TV segments may have finally faded, with the company’s chief exec saying he will no longer chase sales growth, and is open to spinning-off each. The admission of near-defeat comes as CEO Kazuo Hirai outlined his new focus for the next three years, concentrating on PlayStation and camera sensor development rather than segments like phones which have been attacked at either end of the market, both by cheap rivals from Asia, and from more high-end competition from Apple and Samsung.

Samsung buys LoopPay in warning shot to Apple – In an effort to take on Apple Pay head on, Samsung announced Wednesday that it has acquired LoopPay, a Boston-based startup, for an undisclosed sum. Various startups have been jockeying for position in the mobile payments arena, especially now that magnetic stripe cards have become easy targets for massive fraud in the United States and major credit card issuers have agreed to begin issuing European-style chip-and-PIN-based cards by October 2015.

Pinterest said to be pursuing new funding for $11B valuation – Pinterest, which lets people “pin” photos, websites, products and other items on virtual boards for others to see, is in talks to raise $500 million in a funding round that would value the startup at $11 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing unidentified sources described as familiar with the matter. The new cash would bring the company’s total funding raised to date to more than $1.2 billion.

Reddit giving 10% of 2014 ad revenue to charity – When a company reports their earnings, we tend to marvel at the amount they brought in (or didn’t). From there, not much seems to happen, at least in view of the public. Reddit recently announced they pulled in $8.3 million in ad revenue during 2014. That’s interesting enough news, but what they’re doing with it is even more interesting. After their big win, Reddit is paying it forward, and will donate 10% of their ad income to charity. Best of all, you can help decide where the cash goes.

Google Faces App Bundling Antitrust Complaint in Russia – Russian search giant Yandex is suing Google for what it says is anti-competitive practices. The country’s largest search provider accused Google of actively preventing local smartphone vendors from pre-loading competing services onto Android devices. According to the lawsuit, Yandex believes user-centric services—search, maps, email, etc.—should be unbundled from the OS, leveling the playing field and allowing local developers to expand their audiences.

More change for Mozilla as top Firefox exec departs – Johnathan Nightingale, Mozilla’s vice president of Firefox, is leaving. Firefox is stronger now after a tough 2014, he says, but his departure means more unsettled times for the browser maker.

Uber sees $1 billion Series E venture funding surge – Uber has increased its latest Series E funding round amount by $1 billion after receiving increased interest from investors, with the round reaching a total capacity of $2.8 billion.

Facebook says it’s developing virtual reality apps – Less than a year after Facebook closed its acquisition of Oculus VR, maker of the innovative wrap-around Oculus Rift headset and a pioneer in the virtual-reality video game realm, Facebook revealed Tuesday it’s developing versions of its apps for use in a virtual reality environment.

Games and Entertainment:

This pirated movie brought to you by Pampers – Whether they know it or not, major advertisers are subsidizing online movie piracy, accelerating a trend in which illicit video streaming is eclipsing illegal P2P file sharing and downloading of copyrighted material. That’s according to an upcoming study commissioned by Digital Citizens Alliance, a nonprofit organization with the stated goal of making the Internet a safer place. The study is a follow-up to a February 2014 report that pegged the collective annual revenue of the nearly 600 illegal movie sharing sites it sampled at $227 million.

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Xbox One March preview update brings long-awaited screenshot feature – Microsoft has released its Xbox One March system update to people enrolled in the preview program, finally bringing the the long-awaited screenshot feature to the console. In addition to the screenshot feature, a number of smaller improvements have also been released, such as suggested friends and the ability to block spam accounts, a problem that has recently plagued Xbox Live. Microsoft provided the following rundown of the update:

Get Ready to Binge Watch: Amazon OKs More Original Series – The Web giant on Wednesday announced it has greenlit five more original shows, including The Man in the High Castle, which is based on the Philip K. Dick alternative history novel and was a hit during the recent pilot season. Amazon has also ordered up full seasons of the hour-long dark comedy drama Mad Dogs, which “follows the reunion of a group of underachieving forty-something friends” as well as its first-ever docu-series The New Yorker Presents, which brings the pages of the magazine to life.

Comcast’s TV Everywhere streaming lineup doubles as cord-cutting options skyrocket – In a press release, the cable giant says it has doubled its number of live, streaming channels to more than 70 in just over a year, including recent additions like AMC, BBC America, and Showtime. That’s in addition to more than 21,000 on-demand videos for mobile devices and 466,000 videos through the browser.

This Museum Is Building a Video Game Hall of Fame – The Strong museum has collected more than 55,000 video games and related artifacts from the history of gaming — but only a few titles will be inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame, which the museum officially launched on Tuesday. “Electronic games have changed how people play, learn and connect with each other, including across boundaries of culture and geography,” said G. Rollie Adams, president and chief executive of The Strong museum in Rochester.

Off Topic (Sort of):

These Are the Most Gorgeous Google Street Views Imaginable – Google Street View just added a new virtual destination: some of the most stunning landscapes in Greenland, from fjords to viking ruins. “Thanks to our partners Visit Greenland and Asiaq, you can now explore immersive 360-degree imagery of the world’s largest island, which is sparsely populated yet chock full of glorious natural wonders and historical sites,” Google wrote on its blog Wednesday. “Let us take you on a tour of fjords, waterfront vistas, Norse ruins and more.”

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This 43-Second Short May Be the First Sci-Fi Film – There’s a case to be made that the first science fiction ever filmed wasn’t about spaceships, aliens, or trips to the moon. Our rich history of cinematic sci-fi may have begun instead with a 43-second, single-reel film about a box that turns pigs into pork products. It’s true: Some of the earliest sci-fi ever filmed was about drones and factory farming.

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Dash cam shows police striking suspect until cop turns off recording – Among a host of fresh concerns, however, is that the police might turn off the camera gear when footage is needed most. The Oakland Police Department in California, for example, has disciplined police officers 24 times for disabling or failing to activate body-worn cameras. That’s similar to what happened in the case of a St. Louis man arrested for marijuana possession, resisting arrest, and unlawful use of a weapon. Dash cam video, released Monday, shows a suspect, Cortez Bufford, being pulled from the vehicle he was driving before being kicked and shocked with a taser. Charges against Bufford were dropped after the camera being turned off “diminished the evidentiary merits of the case,” police said.

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Pussy Riot release harrowing music video tribute for Eric Garner – The song is being released with an equally haunting music video on YouTube. It shows two members of the band, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, being buried alive while wearing Russian riot police uniforms. “This song is for Eric and for all those from Russia to America and around the globe who suffer from state terror — killed, choked, perished because of war and state sponsored violence of all kinds — for political prisoners and those on the streets fighting for change,” the video’s YouTube description reads. “We stand in solidarity.”

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Something to think about:

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

–      F. Scott Fitzgerald

Today’s Free Downloads:

Andy the Android emulator – Andy breaks down the barrier between desktop and mobile computing, while keeping a user up to date with the latest Android OS feature upgrades. It also provides users with unlimited storage capacity, PC and Mac compatibility, and the freedom to play the most popular mobile games on a desktop, Yes you can now run Android on windows.

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With phone as a joystick, you will never have to sacrifice the multi-touch or gyro elements of gaming, and thanks to seamless connection between desktop and mobile, you can receive a SnapChat phone picture on the street and see it on your desktop at home or even a whatsapp message.

Provides seamless sync between desktop and mobile devices

Connects Win/Mac with Android apps for launching, push notifications and storage

Enables app download from any desktop browser direct to Andy OS

Ensures most up to date Android OS at all times

Brings your favorite communication and entertainment mobile apps to the desktop

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ISO Workshop 5.8 – Optical disc images are files storing complete copies of various media, including CD, DVD and Blu-Ray discs. They are used for backing up data from optical discs and creating exact disc copies for further replication. The main advantage of disc images is that they are essentially exact sector-by-sector copies of original discs preserving both their content and structure. If you have a disc image in any format, you can easily recreate the original disc by burning the image to a blank CD, DVD or BD disc. And although this task may initially seem to be somewhat hard, proper software will make it a breeze – software like ISO Workshop!

Features:

Extract files and folders from disc image

Copy disc to disc image (including Audio CD)

Convert disc image to ISO or BIN format

Burn ISO or CUE/BIN image to disc

Supports common formats (ISO, CUE, BIN, NRG, MDF, CDI etc.)

Supports CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD+R DL, BD-R/RE

Supports verification of written files

Free for personal and commercial use

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Monkey’s Audio 4.14 – Monkey’s Audio is a fast and easy way to compress digital music. Unlike traditional methods such as mp3, ogg, or wma that permanently discard quality to save space, Monkey’s Audio only makes perfect, bit-for-bit copies of your music. That means it always sounds perfect – exactly the same as the original.

Even though the sound is perfect, it still saves a lot of space (think of it as a beefed-up Winzip™ your music). The other great thing is that you can always decompress your Monkey’s Audio files back to the exact, original files. That way, you’ll never have to recopy your CD collection to switch formats, and you’ll always be able to perfectly recreate the original music CD.

Features:

Efficient (fast and great compression) — Monkey’s Audio is highly optimized and highly efficient

Perfect sound — absolutely no quality loss, meaning it sounds perfect and decompresses perfect (it’s lossless!)

Media Center™, Foobar™, WMP™, Winamp™, and more support — supported by most popular players and rippers

Easy — the Windows environment interface is both powerful and easy to use

Free — Monkey’s Audio is completely free!

Error detection — Monkey’s Audio incorporates redundant CRC’s to ensure proper decompression of data (errors never go unnoticed)

Tagging support — Monkey’s Audio uses its own extremely flexible APE Tags so you can easily manage and catalogue your Monkey’s Audio collection

External coder support — you can use Monkey’s Audio as a front-end for all of your encoding needs

Freely available source code, simple SDK and non-restrictive licensing — other developers can easily use Monkey’s Audio in their own programs, and there are no restrictive licensing agreements

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Thousands Join Legal Fight Against UK Surveillance — And You Can, Too – Thousands of people are signing up to join an unprecedented legal campaign against the United Kingdom’s leading electronic surveillance agency.

On Monday, London-based human rights group Privacy International launched an initiative enabling anyone across the world to challenge covert spying operations involving Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the National Security Agency’s British counterpart.

The campaign was made possible following a historic court ruling earlier this month that deemed intelligence sharing between GCHQ and the NSA to have been unlawful because of the extreme secrecy shrouding it.

Consequently, members of the public now have a rare opportunity to take part in a lawsuit against the spying in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special British court that handles complaints about surveillance operations conducted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Privacy International is allowing anyone who wants to participate to submit their name, email address and phone number through a page on its website. The group plans to use the details to lodge a case with GCHQ and the court that will seek to discover whether each participant’s emails or phone calls have been covertly obtained by the agency in violation of the privacy and freedom of expression provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. If it is established that any of the communications have been unlawfully collected, the court could force GCHQ to delete them from its vast repositories of intercepted data.

By Tuesday evening, more than 10,000 people had already signed up to the campaign, a spokesman for Privacy International told The Intercept.

Companies Fighting US Government Barred From Naming Themselves, Because Security – Two major companies—a telecom and an “internet company”—have asked the US government simply for the right to disclose how often the NSA, FBI, and other agencies ask them for user information. Who are these companies? Who knows! The federal government has said that it’s illegal for them to come forward and name themselves.

That’s the astounding claim alleged by the two companies Tuesday in the Northern District of California court. The companies filed what’s known as an amicus curiae brief in support of Twitter’s ongoing legal battle with the US government, in which the social media company is fighting for the right to be able to publish more granular data about government information requests on its users.

The requests, called National Security Letters (NSLs), are not approved by a judge and are issued by the FBI. NSLs ​have since been deemed unconstitutional, but that decision is being appealed. In the meantime, more NSLs continue to be issued. Last year, the US Department of Justice finally said that companies could disclose information about NSL requests, but only in a way that makes it nearly useless.

Australia: Stop monkeying around with our metadata laws, prime minister – There’s something rather endearing, sweet even, about watching Prime Minister Tony Abbott explain Australia’s “urgent” need for mandatory telecommunications data-retention laws.

Evidence continues to mount against the idea of capturing and storing this so-called “metadata” for two years — at least in the proposed law’s current form — and I’ll get to that. But Abbott just keeps banging away with the same old discredited spin. He’s like one of those wind-up toy monkeys clashing his cymbals. All noise, all repetition, no information, no clue.

There’s also something rather endearing, sweet even, about Abbott’s simplistic, binary world view.

“The cost of losing this data is an explosion in unsolved crime… If we want to combat crime, we need this legislation, and if we don’t get it, it will be a form of unilateral disarmament in the face of criminals, and the price of that is very, very high indeed,” Abbott told a press conference on Wednesday.

Yes, in the criminal-infested cartoon land of Abbott’s political mind, telecommunications data is the only tool in the investigative toolbox. With it, crime can be solved. Without it, the very fabric of society will dissolve under a tsunami of crooks.

Meet Babar, a New Malware Almost Certainly Created by France – The NSA, GCHQ, and their allies in the Five Eyes are not the only government agencies using malware for surveillance. French intelligence is almost certainly hacking its targets too—and now security researchers believe they have proof.

On Wednesday, the researchers will reveal new details about a powerful piece of malware known as “Babar,” which is capable of eavesdropping on online conversations held via Skype, MSN and Yahoo messenger, as well as logging keystrokes and monitoring which websites an infected user has visited.

Babar is “a fully blown espionage tool, built to excessively spy” on its victims, according to the research, and which Motherboard reviewed in advance. The researchers are publishing two separate but complementary reports that analyze samples of the malware, and all but confirm that France’s spying agency the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) was responsible for its creation.

France’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Russia Wants to Block Tor, But It Probably Can’t – The Russian government said last week it wants to ban Tor, a browser and network that anonymizes web traffic, but how likely is it that they will succeed at censoring a tool that is itself used to circumvent censorship?

Certain domains have been blocked in Russia since 2012, when a blacklist law went into effect, but the current legislation relies on individual internet service providers to block these sites. Many citizens easily bypass the barriers with tools like Tor and VPN, or virtual private network, services, which allow them to tunnel traffic through alternative IP addresses and appear as if they are located outside of Russia.

Vadim Ampelonskogo, the chief press officer for the country’s federal authority on telecommunications, released a st​atement describing Tor as, “den of criminals” and “ghouls, all gathered in one place.” He made it clear the government has the service in its sights, saying blocking it would be difficult but “technically possible.”

According to Jillian York, Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it is unlikely Russia would follow through on such a massive undertaking. While VPNs are fairly easy to block, Tor is a different game.

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