Tag Archives: tech

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 31, 2015

World Backup Day – is your data safe enough?  The essential guide to HomePlug Ethernet adapters;  19 Ways the Internet of Things Changes Everything;  Free up space on your SSD or hard drive;  Top 7 second-screen apps for Baseball;  Interactive chart helps you compare 150 3D printers;  The 10 Best Free Apps for Travel Junkies;  IBM Launches Major Internet Of Things Offensive;  $60 DIY car hacking device;  Fear the Walking Dead: watch the first trailer;  The 5 Best iPhone Games of the Month;  California biohackers create night vision eye drops;  7 PowerPoint text effects that add sizzle;  Power your devices with the sun: 11 great solar chargers;  CrystalDiskInfo (free);  Windows 10’s new browser, is now available for testing;  NSA considered ending phone surveillance program.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

World Backup Day – is your data safe enough? – 31 March is World Backup Day, a chance for us all to avoid being April Fools by making sure we have secure backups of all our most important data. On last year’s Backup Day, we provided a rundown of the most basic and important steps you can take to ensure your files can be retrieved in the event of a disaster.

19 Ways the Internet of Things Changes Everything – By 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) will be everywhere, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a device that’s not connected to the Web in some way. The possibilities are endless with the IoT: from health trackers and cars to home audio systems and smoke alarms. Combine that with an IFTTT (If This Then That) command and you have the recipe for a truly Web-connected life. While privacy advocates have concerns about the IoT, about 83 percent of the 1,606 experts surveyed by Pew said that the trend will be beneficial in the long run.

10 kits to get you started on the Internet of Things and hardware hacking – Kits designed to help you get started on making your own gadgets without getting bogged down in technical detail.

The essential guide to HomePlug Ethernet adapters (including 7 hands-on reviews) – HomePlug Ethernet adapters that use your home’s electrical wiring are great supplements to Wi-Fi networks. We sort through all the iterations and review the top seven models.

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Free up space on your SSD or hard drive – Your hard drive or (more likely) SSD is running out of space. Here are a few tricks for clearing out the garbage.

The top 7 second-screen apps for supplementing your Major League Baseball experience – These days, apps running on a second screen—a smartphone or tablet—are becoming as integral to watching the game as cold beer and peanuts. We’ve rounded up seven of the best second-screen apps that belong on your smartphone or tablet this baseball season. Download and install one or more before Opening Day on Sunday to make sure you’re game ready when the ump yells “play ball!”

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If you don’t use anything else this season, be sure to install at least the free Lite version of MLB at Bat.

Google Drive now backs up photos, videos automatically – Many of us have photos and video spread all over the web and across devices. Depending on how you’ve got your cloud storage set up, it’s not likely you’ve got all your media in one centralized location. Today, Google is taking steps to solve that for us. In Drive, you’ll soon see a new “Google Photos” menu option, which brings all your photo and video storage to a more convenient location. This move was rumored earlier this month, though it’s not exactly what sources claimed Google may end up doing.

7 PowerPoint text effects that add sizzle to slides – Here’s one more secret to help your PowerPoint slides sell. You always need good, well-written content, engaging graphics, and chic animations. Now, add some flashy text to that mix—judiciously—to give your ideas more sizzle. Although not really classified as effects, the Text and Outline Fill provide several options such as Solid colors, Gradients, Pictures or Textures, and Patterns to get you started.

Gmail for Android gets a unified inbox view – The Official Gmail Blog just announced that, starting today, an “All Inboxes” option will show up in the Gmail for Android navigation drawer (presumably, this requires an app update). The new option will display all your incoming mail from all your accounts in a single list.

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Interactive chart helps you compare 150 3D printers before buying – 3D printers have been available to consumers for a number of years, but your options were severely limited. As the price of the technology comes down and more applications are devised, the selection of printers has exploded. There are plenty of factors that go into making a 3D printer right for your needs, and this super-neat 3D printer comparison chart can help you find the perfect one.

Project Spartan, Windows 10’s new browser, is now available for testing – We got our first look at Project Spartan at Microsoft’s Windows 10 event in January. The browser runs on a brand new rendering engine aimed at speeding up performance, while offering new, sharing-centric functionality. The most dramatic of these changes is support for inking: you’ll be able to write or type directly on a web page, and share your annotations via email, through social networks, or by clipping them directly to OneNote.

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The 10 Best Free Apps for Travel Junkies – Odds are you use no more than two travel apps to get from point A to point B, and that’s fine — surveys show you’re not alone. But consider for a moment these 10 travel apps, which can shave time and money off your next journey and help you sniff out a few hidden gems to boot. They’re all free and just one download away from making your next trip smooth sailing.

Power your devices with the sun: 11 great solar chargers – It’s spring and the sun is finally shining, so use its rays to power your smartphone or tablet. Here are 11 affordable solar chargers.

New ARM-powered chip aims for battery life measured in decades – Atmel, the San Jose-based microcontroller maker, today released samples of a new type of ultra-low power, ARM based microcontroller that could radically extend the battery life of small low-power intelligent devices. The new SAM L21 32-bit ARM family of microcontroller (MCUs) consume less than 35 microamps of power per megahertz of processing speed while active, and less than 200 nanoamps of power overall when in deep sleep mode—with varying states in between. The chip is so low power that it can be powered off energy capture from the body, as Andreas Eieland, Atmel’s Director of Product Marketing for low-power products, demonstrated at CES earlier this year.

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Apple Stores now accept non-Apple device trade-ins – Trading in an Android phone for credit towards an iPhone is now a reality. If you walk into an Apple Store and hand them an Android, Windows, or BlackBerry phone, there’s a good chance they’ll offer you some sort of trade-in credit towards an iPhone. In conjunction with Brightstar, who runs their iOS trade-in program already, Apple stores now take non-Apple smartphones for Apple Store credit. The new program starts today in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, and France.

Security:

$60 DIY car hacking device is an inexpensive and easy way to hack cars – At the Black Hat Asia security conference, former Tesla intern and embedded systems developer Eric Evenchick released open source Python-based CANard software and CANtact hardware designs that will allow anyone to hack their connected cars.

Macro-based malware strikes again: How to keep your networks safe – Bad guys have regained interest in macro-based malware, reports Microsoft and Trend Micro. Learn why vigilance is key to combatting it.

Malwarebytes: Adult site Xtube compromised, serving exploits – Our systems have detected infections coming from popular adult site Xtube. This attack does not use malicious ads (malvertising) to compromise users. Instead, it injects a malicious snippet of code directly into Xtube itself.

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Pointing up   Tip – if you’re not yet running Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free, check it out here.

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Here’s a shot of it running in my system tray.

GitHub Continues To Face Evolving DDoS Attack – Online code repository GitHub continues to face a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Monday, which the company reported is the largest attack in GitHub.com’s history. The attack began on Thursday and still continues, according to GitHub’s status page and Twitter accounts, though the company says now that all its systems are reporting at 100%. However, the attackers continue to evolve their methodology as the barrage continues, requiring GitHub to remain on “high alert,” it says.

Company News:

Google likely to prevail against Mississippi Attorney General’s enormous subpoena, court says – A federal court in Mississippi is convinced so far that Google will prevail against the state’s attorney general in a lawsuit over an allegedly burdensome and over-broad subpoena. Google filed the suit a week after The Verge published a report tying Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to a secret Hollywood campaign to fight Google, pinning blame on it for piracy. Hood had handed Google a 79-page-long subpoena requesting a wealth of information and interviews, which Google is now fighting back against on grounds that it violates its First and Fourth Amendment rights.

IBM Launches Major Internet Of Things Offensive – The intent of the new initiative is to put IBM at the forefront of the Internet of Things and provide a common platform on top of which customers can build useful applications to take advantage of all that data. IBM suggests that partnerships like the one with The Weather Company and the one announced last year with Twitter are the cornerstones of a strategy to put them on the cutting edge of a burgeoning technology. They are not alone in this endeavor, however. GE has its own Internet of Things platform aimed at the industrial internet, called Predix. The two giants are battling it out for the hearts and minds of developers.

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Amazon takes its delivery drone testing to Canada – Amazon is dreaming of a world where its drones deliver products, and the FAA is publicly cringing at the prospect. The FAA did get around to granting Amazon an element of permission for testing its drones, but it was a matter of too little too late. Amazon isn’t waiting for the FAA to speed things up, and has instead simply crossed the border into Canada, where it is testing its delivery drones without the harsh restrictions imposed by the US government. The Guardian reports that Amazon is now working in British Columbia on its Prime Delivery Drones, where a variety of software engineers, roboticists, aeronautics experts, and more compose the team. The exact location of the testing site is being kept a close secret, and it follows the snail-slow approach to drone technology that US government is taking.

The Senate wants to know if the White House protected Google from the FTC – The fallout from a leaked trove of FTC documents on Google continues. A Senate panel says it has some questions for the FTC and White House after the documents revealed how Google used its power to strong-arm other companies, yet still made its way out of an anti-trust investigation relatively unscathed. Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee — chairman of the Senate Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee — says his office will examine both how the documents were released and whether the White House had an inappropriate role in the investigation, the National Journal reports.

Games and Entertainment:

The 5 Best iPhone Games of the Month – Every week, TIME rounds up our favorite iPhone games of the past few days. Here are the best of the best for March, from mind-straining puzzle games to mad-dash runners.

Spotify-Backed PlayStation Music Launches on PS3, PS4 – Sony’s PlayStation Music platform—the Music Unlimited replacement unveiled in January—launched today on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. With exclusive partner Spotify, PlayStation Music offers more than 30 million songs and 1.5 billion playlists, making it easy for console owners to soundtrack their gaming sessions. Using the Spotify Connect feature on the official Android and iOS music app, users can select a playlist (including special gaming catalogues), skip songs, adjust the volume, and more via a smartphone or tablet, without interrupting the immersive game experience.

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Fear the Walking Dead: watch the first trailer – If you watched The Walking Dead’s season 5 finale last night (fret not, there are no spoilers here), you were among the first round of people to see the series sequel’s very first trailer. It aired halfway through the episode, and during its brief time lent a glimpse into the zombie virus’s origins…and in doing so, it suggested that we might finally learn more about how the outbreak took place. The sequel, as we’ve previously noted, is called Fear the Walking Dead, and it’ll be making its debut this summer, bringing us closer to having year-round Walking Dead entertainment.

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Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service relaunching with ‘new direction’ – After a dust-up that saw minority shareholders attempt to block Jay-Z’s acquisition of Aspiro, things are moving forward. In the bid, Jay-Z acquired hi-definition streaming service Tidal, which seems to be the real goal in acquiring Aspiro. Today, Tidal is being relaunched, and is allegedly going to start challenging others like Spotify or iTunes for new releases from big-name artists. If successful, expect the new Beyonce album to hit Tidal unannounced instead of iTunes.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Doctors kill golden staph using a 1,000-year-old remedy – The key to killing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — also known as MRSA or golden staph — may not be new-fangled treatments after all, but a treatment for an infected eyelash follicle found in a 1,000-year-old book. The MRSA “superbug” is notoriously difficult to treat. Over the years, it developed resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics, which include common treatments like penicillin and its derivatives, cephalosporins, monobactams and carbapenems. It’s also a particular problem in hospitals and nursing homes, where a high percentage of the population of which have open wounds and weakened immune systems.

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Two federal agents have been charged with stealing money from the Silk Road – Two Federal agents are facing charges of stealing money from the Silk Road, an online drug marketplace that was taken down by federal warrant more than a year ago. According to a newly unsealed affidavit, DEA Agent Carl Mark Force was actively selling Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht information about the government’s investigaton, at one point receiving $100,000 in bitcoin in exchange for a name that Mt Gox founder Mark Karpeles had given investigators as DPR’s true identity. (Karpeles maintains that he never knew DPR’s identity.) Force also used the DEA’s legal powers to freeze a bitcoin account on a service called CoinMKT and direct nearly $300,000 into his own account.

Destroy your tablet with a Selfie Stick attachment – If the normal Selfie Stick wasn’t enough to get you pumped up about taking a picture of yourself near a crash site, the Tablet Attachment must be. This device attaches to a standard selfie stick monopod pole and gives you room to grip your tablet. You can hook on to an iPad and hold it aloft, taking a front-facing selfie photo from all sorts of different angles. Have we reached Peak Selfie Stick? Between this and that New York Post cover – yes, yes we have.

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Watch this drone shepherd round up its flock on an Irish farm – Although CNET predicts that farming will be the No. 1 industry transformed by drones in the coming years, I think that’s talking about evaluating crop health and the like, not finding border collie replacements. But a new video shows that “drone shepherding” is certainly possible.

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Video Shows Border Patrol Agent Firing Taser Into Car Before It Explodes, Burning Driver Alive – Video of the incident, which occurred in March 2012 in Pine Valley, California, was just made public as part of a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the family of the 25-year-old victim, Alex Martin, who was killed in the incident. The footage, caught by a dashboard camera in the officers’ car and presented as evidence in the lawsuit, shows the plain clothes officers running up to Martin’s car after pulling it over, flashing a light into the vehicle, and trying to force open the door, before breaking through the window and firing the Taser — which immediately sets off an explosion. The video then shows the officers moving away from the fire without attempting to help Martin, as he burns to death. In the video, the officers don’t appear to identify themselves to Martin when they approach the car — nor do they attempt to extinguish the fire. “All three of those cars had large fire extinguishers in them and standard equipment,” Iredale said. “Not one of these agents ever even tried to spray any of the fire extinguisher solution on that car.”

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California biohackers create night vision eye drops – You can read the full report, but basically the experiment was a fascinating success. After applying the drops, scientists were able to clearly and instantly recognize people over 160 feet away in pitch blackness standing in the woods. Their eyes absorbed so much more light they even had to wear sunglasses indoors despite the risk of looking like incognito celebrities. The effects weren’t permanent, though. 50 microliters of the solution wore off after a few hours, and the scientists plan to do plenty more research on the long-term effects of Ce6 before considering the future of night vision in a bottle.

Something to think about:

We’re keeping a list. 

We’re checking it twice. 

We’re gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. 

1984 is comin’ to town…

A Christmas Card fromBarak Obama (U.S.), David Cameron (U.K.), Stephen Harper (Canada), Tony Abbott (Australia), John Key (New Zealand).

Today’s Free Downloads:

CrystalDiskInfo – CrystalDiskInfo is a HDD health monitoring utility. It displays basic HDD information, monitors S.M.A.R.T. values and disk temperature.

Features:

Show S.M.A.R.T Information

Show HDD Information

Change dialog design

Internationalization (i18n)

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Unreal Commander – Unreal Commander is a freeware file manager for Windows.

Features:

Two-panel interface

UNICODE support

Extended search of files

Multi-rename tool

Synchronization of directories

Support of archives ZIP, RAR, ACE, CAB, JAR, TAR, LHA, GZ, TGZ, ARJ

Built-in FTP client

Thumbnail mode

Folder tabs

Support of WLX/WCX/WDX plugins

Build-in viewer and quick view function

Network support

Drag and Drop Support

History and Hotlist functions

Copy/move/delete files background mode support

Deleting files with WIPE

Background pictures support

Visual styles: color categories of files, fonts for all interface elements

and more.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Data and Goliath, book review: A handbook for the information age – Modern lives leave a digital trail, and most people are unaware of just who is auditing it. Security expert Bruce Schneier examines how governments, corporations, individuals and society as a whole can deliver a better balance between security and privacy.

Governor ups license plate data retention to 60 days from seven: “Major step forward for personal freedom and liberty” thwarted by governor – Despite near-unanimous support in both houses of the Virginia state legislature, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) recently amended a significant license plate reader data retention bill, sending it back to state lawmakers. Had the bill passed, it would have imposed a limit of just seven days on keeping such data absent an ongoing criminal investigation.

As put forward by the governor last Friday, the new amendments crucially change that retention period from seven days to 60 days, and modify language that was designed to be a hedge against future surveillance technologies to be restricted to license plate readers specifically.

The Washington Post quoted Brian Moran, the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, as saying on Friday that he had “been informed by numerous law enforcement agencies that license plate readers result in salient and compelling information. The governor’s amendment…represents a significant compromise by law enforcement. The governor believes 60 days is a more appropriate period of time and reaches a compromise with the legislature that’s reasonable.”

Intercept Reporter Files Suit Against Ferguson Police – An Intercept reporter is suing the St. Louis County Police Department after he was shot with rubber bullets and arrested while reporting on protests in the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown last August.

The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux is joined in the civil rights suit, filed today in federal court in the Eastern District of Missouri, by three German journalists who were also arrested. They allege that the police department, St. Louis County, and 20 unidentified officers violated their First Amendment rights of freedom of press and freedom of speech, used excessive force against them, and arrested them without probable cause. (The complaint is embedded below.)

NSA considered ending phone surveillance program — report – The National Security Agency reportedly contemplated curtailing its program to collect the phone records of America citizens even before whistleblower Edward Snowden spilled the beans.

The NSA, which has been intensely criticized for its program of vacuuming up the phone call records of US citizens, has publicly defended the practice as a necessary measure to combat terrorism. But months before the surveillance came to light in 2013 with the release of documents leaked by Snowden, a proposal to end the program was being discussed among top managers of the agency, current and former intelligence officials told the Associated Press.

NSA insiders who called for the program to be killed cited several factors, according to the AP’s sources. The cost of capturing and storing records from every domestic landline was growing higher. The system wasn’t grabbing the records of mobile phone calls. The program was not integral to discovering terrorist plots. And critics inside the agency were concerned about the reaction should the program ever become public knowledge.

The effort to halt the program never got beyond the discussion stage.

EFF questions US government’s software flaw disclosure policy – It’s not clear if the U.S. government is living up to its promise to disclose serious software flaws to technology companies, a policy it put in place five years ago, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The digital watchdog said on Monday it received a handful of heavily redacted documents from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which it sued last July after it and the National Security Agency moved too slowly on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Last year, the EFF sought documents related to the U.S. government’s efforts to beef up its Vulnerability Equities Process (VEP), a framework for notifying companies about zero-day vulnerabilities.

Those type of software flaws are considered the most dangerous since attackers are actively using the flaws to compromise computers, and there are no patches ready.

But there has been concern that the U.S. government may hold onto that kind of information for too long, putting at risk organizations that it is supposed to protect from foreign adversaries who may discover the vulnerabilities on their own.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 30, 2015

Has your router been hijacked? – there’s an easy way to find out;  The programs with the most security vulnerabilities in 2014 were not the ones you think;  10 Chrome extensions for streamlined, sped-up productivity;  This trick can quickly fix many mysterious hardware failures;  Photos: The 10 best consumer drones you can buy right now;  Vine Boosts Video Quality to 720p;  Popular hotel Internet gateway devices vulnerable to hacking;  British users can sue Google in UK over “secret tracking”;  You can now play Super Mario 64 in your browser;  Tumblr Adds ‘Buy, Pledge, Get Involved’ Buttons;  BlackBerry posts second straight earnings gain;  Fast & Furious expansion for Forza Horizon 2 available for free;  Amazon unleashes unlimited storage for $5 a month;  How “standby” modes on game consoles suck up energy;  Four tips that can enhance your Netflix experience.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Has your router been hijacked? You might not have any idea how to answer that question. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to find out… and it’s both fast and free. The security experts at F-Secure just announced the launch of their Router Checker tool. It’s a dead-simple way to find out whether or not your DNS is working the way it should. There’s no app to download and install, it’s just a website that you visit with any modern, standards-compliant browser. Current versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera should all work just fine. Click the start now button, and Router Checker tests to see if DNS requests sent from your device are being routed as they should be or whether they’re being hijacked by a third party.

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The programs with the most security vulnerabilities in 2014 were not the ones you think – Summary:Google Chrome, Oracle Solaris and Gentoo Linux all beat Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in having the most vulnerabilities last year, according to Secunia, while IBM software took 40 percent of the Top 20 places.

Ed Bott: Six surprising facts about who’s winning the operating system and browser wars in the U.S. – The United States government has given the public access to its massive analytics database, and the results are fascinating. What share does the Mac really have? Is Windows 8.1 a hit or a miss? Who’s winning the browser wars? I’ve dug deep to get the answers.

Google admits it has huge influence in Washington as it tries to deny having influence – Last week, a Wall Street Journal report suggested Google tampered with an FTC investigation that was looking to see if the search giant was engaging in anti-competitive practices. While the FTC ultimately decided not to bring a lawsuit against Google, reports published by the WSJ indicated the commission was deeply divided on whether it should sue — and another report exposed the close ties that Google has with the Obama administration. The implication was that Google used its influence in the White House to ultimately sway the FTC’s decision in its favor — something that Google is now vigorously denying in an unusual post today on its public policy blog.

10 Chrome extensions for streamlined, sped-up productivity – While there are plenty of web-based tools and productivity tricks to help you power through tasks in your browser, you can step up and speed up your capabilities even more by grabbing some smart Chrome extensions. These add-ons add more functionality to Chrome for Windows and Chromebook users alike, enabling you to quickly save items to Google Drive, clip articles, or keep tabs on all your social media shares.

Most popular US web browsers, according to the federal government – We finally have some clear, objective data on which web browsers and operating systems are the most popular in the United States. Thanks to the federal government’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP), we now know that over the last 90 days, and 1.39-billion web visits to more than 37 government agencies, Google Chrome is the most popular web browser with 34.7 percent of all visitors.

5 secret Chrome app launcher tips and tricks that speed up everyday tasks – The Chrome app launcher is more than a glorified version of the Windows start menu. It packs a surprising amount of Google-y power that can speed up a wide variety of tasks on a Chromebook—and Windows, if you install the Chrome launcher.

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Tumblr Adds ‘Buy, Pledge, Get Involved’ Buttons to Mobile App – Tumblr is spicing up its mobile app with the introduction of new buttons that appear within posts whenever you link to particular sites. The new buttons—Buy, Pledge, and Get Involved—only seem to appear on Tumblr’s mobile apps right now (as in, you won’t notice them if you’re browsing through your favorite Tumblr blogs). They also only appear whenever a Tumblr post links to a particular site—Etsy, Artsy, Kickstarter, or DOSomething.org.

This trick can quickly fix many mysterious hardware failures – Every now and then something breaks on your computer. Maybe you get a bad system update from Microsoft or cosmic rays flip the wrong bit on your system. Whatever the cause, often your problem has nothing to do with hardware, but lies within the software powering it, instead.

Microsoft’s Lumia 530 will soon be available for just $29 off-contract in Australia – If you’re looking for a low-cost smartphone in Australia, the perfect opportunity to buy may be just around the corner, as Big W will soon be selling the Lumia 530 for just $29, with a free cover.

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Vine Boosts Video Quality to 720p – Vine’s six-second looping videos will soon be a bit crisper. The Twitter-owned company today announced a new high-quality format for all clips created and uploaded on its apps and website. Rolling out first on iOS, the videos will reach Android users soon, though no official launch date has been announced.

Photos: The 10 best consumer drones you can buy right now

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DJI Phantom 2 Vision+

Periscope vs. Meerkat: Which Is the Livestreaming App For You? – With Thursday’s public release of Periscope, Twitter is trying to torpedo its live-streaming competition by launching its own app that lets users send video to viewers around the world at the tap of a touchscreen. In development for more than a year but bought by Twitter earlier this year, Periscope offers a nearly identical service to Meerkat, the wildly popular ephemeral video app that launched on Feb. 27. But in this battle for live-streaming dominance, Twitter and Periscope currently have a huge advantage: it owns both the seas and the ports.

Pointing up   What’s really needed here is a dedicated application specifically designed to record/stream every encounter one might have with the police. Every encounter.

Security:

Popular hotel Internet gateway devices vulnerable to hacking – The affected devices, designed to manage visitor-based networks, are manufactured by a company called ANTlabs and are used by both low-cost and luxury hotels around the world, according to researchers from security firm Cylance. The researchers discovered that multiple ANTLabs InnGate models contained a misconfigured rsync service that listened on TCP port 873 and gave unauthenticated attackers full read and write access to the device file system.

AT&T’s plan to watch your Web browsing—and what you can do about it – If you have AT&T’s gigabit Internet service and wonder why it seems so affordable, here’s the reason—AT&T is boosting profits by rerouting all your Web browsing to an in-house traffic scanning platform, analyzing your Internet habits, then using the results to deliver personalized ads to the websites you visit, e-mail to your inbox, and junk mail to your front door. AT&T charges at least another $29 a month ($99 total) to provide standalone Internet service that doesn’t perform this extra scanning of your Web traffic. The privacy fee can balloon to more than $60 for bundles including TV or phone service. Certain modem rental and installation fees also apply only to service plans without Internet Preferences.

British Airways confirms frequent flyer hack – The airline has confirmed thousands of frequent flyer accounts have been accessed.

G20 world leaders’ personal information leaked in ‘email error’ – Australian G20 organisers have been left red faced after it was revealed an email autofill error led to a leak of passport details for 31 world leaders, including Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and more.

Thousands of Uber accounts are allegedly being sold on the dark web – Thousands of Uber users account credentials could have been compromised, and are up for sale from unscrupulous sellers. At least two separate vendors on dark web marketplace AlphaBay are hawking active Uber accounts, Motherboard reports. Once purchased, these accounts let buyers order up rides using whatever payment information is on file. Those accounts can also show trip history, email addresses, phone numbers, and location information for people’s home and work addresses.

Slack Got Hacked – Slack, the super-slick team chat-room service, is getting popular fast. Word around the rumor mill is that they’re currently raising funds at a $2.8 billion valuation. And in the words of the late, great Biggie Smalls: Mo Money, Mo Problems. In the case of startups, success can make your databases a juicy target for hackers. And sure enough: Slack got hacked.

Puush calls for password change after malware hit – Online screenshot-sharing service Puush is warning its users to change their passwords after it emerged that the platform had been infected with malware.

Company News:

British users can sue Google in UK over “secret tracking” – The UK’s Court of Appeal has confirmed an earlier landmark High Court decision that a group of British consumers using Apple’s Safari browser to access Google’s services can sue the US company in the UK. Google has always argued that the appropriate forum for such cases is in the US, so this sets an important precedent for future legal actions against foreign companies operating in the UK. The UK Court of Appeal’s ruling clears the way for the group known as “Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking” to proceed with its claim for compensation. The group alleges, “Google deliberately undermined protections on the Safari browser so that they could track users’ internet usage and to provide personally tailored advertising based on the sites previously visited.”

Google turns to GIFs (oh, and facts) to slam FTC snark – Weaponized GIFs are apparently the new way to make serious points more flippant online, with Google smacking back at News Corp. criticism that the search giant had made a habit of hanging around the White House. Google had been accused of chasing undue political influence, with the News Corp. owned Wall Street Journal suggesting it was sneaky maneuvering that saw Google escape FTC censure over activities contrary to the public interest. Key to the accusations was a count of the number of times Google had visited senior officials since President Obama took office.

BlackBerry posts second straight earnings gain – BlackBerry’s turnaround continues, as the company reported a second straight quarter of profit on Friday, along with expectations of sustained profitability throughout the coming year. “Our financial viability is no longer in question,” CEO John Chen declared in a conference call, even as he admitted the company is only halfway through a long transition. He also predicted sustained profitability in the current fiscal year that started March 1. Profits for the quarter that ended Feb. 28 were 4 cents a share, up from 1 cent a share for the previous quarter.

Sony’s SmartEyeglass augmented-reality glasses on sale in 10 counties – Just after Sony unveiled its SmartEyeglass augmented-reality glasses a few months ago, it was quickly labeled by tech media and critics as dorky, unfashionable, and tacky. Fortunately (or unfortunately?), Sony has decided to press ahead in the wake of the Google Glass experiment and release the headgear in 10 countries, starting this week. Labeled as a Developer Edition, the SED-E1 SmartEyeglass will set lucky purchasers back a steep $840. Just don’t expect people to jealous of how cool you look while wearing it.

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UK investigation finds Huawei isn’t a security threat – Huawei, along with ZTE, has previously been a source of concern for western governments, many of whom have expressed worry that the Chinese company could be performing surveillance for the Chinese government. That has led to use of its hardware being banned in some places, and probes into whether Huawei hardware has been compromised. Back in 2013, Huawei revealed that it would be launching an R&D facility in the United Kingdom, and that resulted in an investigation into the matter. It has been quite a while since then, and the result is in Huawei’s favor.

Not to be outdone, Amazon unleashes unlimited storage for $5 a month – Amazon this week laid down the gauntlet: Unlimited cloud storage for individuals for $5 a month ($59.99 per year). Amazon’s Unlimited Everything Plan allows users to store an infinite number of photos, videos, files, documents, movies and music in its Cloud Drive. The site also announced a separate $12 per year plan for unlimited photos. People who subscribe to Amazon Prime already get unlimited capacity for photos. Both the Unlimited Everything Plan and the Photos Plan have three-month free trial periods.

Games and Entertainment:

These 20 deep, absorbing PC games will eat days of your life – Far too many games these days are built to be played in small bursts: brief encounters, designed for a world with too few hours in the day and too many digital distractions. And that’s fine! Blasting through a few rounds of Call of Duty multiplayer, or playing a few run-throughs in Spelunky, is a wonderful way to spend a few minutes. But sometimes, you want something more—something meatier. Whether you’re looking for an entertaining way to blow a long weekend or simply want to wrap your head around a satisfyingly complex experience, these 20 deep, intricate, and just plain great PC games will hold you for hours and hours and hours on end.

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Pointing up   Skyrim, shown above, cost me $60 three years ago. The best entertainment dollars I’ve ever spent – 2000+ hours of game play later, and I’m still finding new challenges. The open world concept makes this game essentially never ending.

Fast & Furious expansion for Forza Horizon 2 available for free – Here’s a deal for Xbox gamers that will appeal to fans of either the Fast & Furious movie series or the Forza racing game series. As a way to promote the release of the new Furious 7 movie next week, a Fast & Furious-themed expansion for Forza Horizon 2 has just been released on both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles. The best part of all? It’s completely free, even if you don’t already own the full game.

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How “standby” modes on game consoles suck up energy – First, this should go without saying, but don’t leave your consoles sitting on and “idle” on the home menu when you turn the TV off. That draws about 33W of power on the Wii U, 92W on the Xbox One, and a whopping 130W on the PS4. Leaving your PS4 sitting on the menu like this all year would waste over $142 in electricity costs. Here’s a system-by-system breakdown on how those standby modes shake out, power-wise, and how to avoid what can be a significant drain on your power bill.

Half-Life 2 gets a visual makeover in this awesome mod – Half-Life 3 is one of the most anticipated (yet unconfirmed) sequels in modern PC gaming history with rumors dating back several years now. Still, there’s no solid evidence that Valve is working on the title. In the meantime, perhaps a trip down memory lane with a remastered version of Half-Life 2 will suffice? You may remember Half-Life fan Filip Victor’s first graphics mod in 2009. Since that, he’s been working on a revision that features improved lighting and environmental effects while maintaining the look and feel that made the original so special.

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You can now play Super Mario 64 in your browser – Super Mario 64 is still an amazing game, but nearly 20 years after it first launched on the Nintendo 64, it looks pretty dated. But with a little love, it can look amazing. Computer science student Erik Roystan Ross recently decided to remake the first level of the game while experimenting with the Unity game engine, and the results are impressive — the game looks almost as good as more recent games in the series, like Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. And you can even play the remake in your browser right here — but don’t expect to see the rest of the game rendered in HD. “I currently do not have any plans to develop this any further or to resolve any bugs, unless they’re horrendously game-breaking and horrendously simple to fix,” says Ross.

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This week in games: 3 reasons why mods are the best part of being a PC gamer – Plus Halo comes to PC…sort of, and somebody breaks their Rainbow Six: Siege NDA in order to show you dudes fighting on an airplane. This is all the gaming news for the week of March 23.

Four tips that can enhance your Netflix experience – We love binge-watching our favorite TV show and movies on Netflix as much as you do. These tips will help improve your viewing experience.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Apple’s Tim Cook speaks out against discriminatory ‘religious freedom’ laws – Apple CEO Tim Cook has used the editorial pages of The Washington Post to condemn laws that allow businesses to refuse service to homosexuals or other groups on the grounds of “religious freedom.” Calling the legislation “something very dangerous happening in states across the country,” Cook says these laws “rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.”

Tech Titans Blast New Anti-Gay Law In Indiana – It’s hard to believe, after how far the gay rights movement has come, that we’re still doing this. But here we are. Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has signed into law a bill that allows private businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian consumers, according to CNN. The “Restoration of Religious Freedom Act” is meant to allow businesses and corporations to cite “religious beliefs” as a defense, should they be sued by a private party for discrimination. This of course means that Gov. Pence and the state of Indiana are prioritizing the religious beliefs of a company or corporation (after all, corporations are people!) over the basic human rights of a gay person. Right on queue, tech industry titans have swooped in to decry the move, led by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Watch the Samsung Galaxy S Evolve Before Your Very Eyes – The Samsung Galaxy S has come a long way since it first launched in 2010. With its latest versions — the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge — set to go on sale on April 10, take a look at how the Android-powered iPhone rival has changed over the years:

Evolution of the  Galaxy S

Researchers demonstrate quantum entanglement, prove Einstein wrong – For the first time, quantum entanglement of a single particle has been observed by researchers — an event that Albert Einstein believed to be impossible under the contemporary quantum mechanics definition of physical reality, calling it “spooky action at a distance”. According to theory, quantum entanglement occurs when a pair of particles remains connected over distance in such a way that actions performed on one particle also have an affect on the other.

10 Reasons Why Building a Gaming PC is Awesome – Building a gaming PC can be time-consuming and stressful. There are a thousand things that could go wrong, and any one of them could wind up costing hundreds of dollars. And yet we do it anyway. Why? Because building PCs is totally awesome.

Cry-Baby of the Week: A Woman Fired a Gun Into Mcdonald’s Because They Messed Up Her Order – It’s time, once again, to marvel at some idiots who don’t know how to handle the world:

ElecFreaks Is Selling (And Giving Away) A DIY VR Drone – A new 3D-printed drone called the ELF VR Nano is available for pre-order on Indiegogo and for download on Thingiverse. That’s right: you can either buy the product and receive pre-printed parts or you can simply print it yourself. It’s one of the purest open source hardware plays I’ve seen in a long while and it just goes to show how cool it is to be able to print your own plastic parts at home. You can pick up a kit now for $65 on Indiegogo or simply print out the parts yourself for free. DIYers will also have to buy the motors and electronics but with the ubiquity of DIY manufacturing tools that’s far easier than it sounds these days.

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Living Without Cable: My Experience with Cutting the Cord – It’s been a month since I disconnected my AT&T U-verse TV service. It’s not the first time, but something I’ve done half a dozen times over the last several years. What’s different about this time and why I’m compelled to write about it is the fact that I have no intentions of going back. Cutting the cord sounds trendy enough but the reality is, there’s quite a bit of thought and consideration that goes into it, and there will be some compromises.

Something to think about:

“Religions are, for the most part, bad—but religion is not”

–   Kurt Gödel

Today’s Free Downloads:

Multi-Monitor Viewer – With Multi-Monitor Viewer you can view the contents of any of your monitors inside a typical application window.

Working on a PC with multiple monitors, in an extended desktop, while in general it can be a very rewarding and interesting experience, it might end up being a nightmare when it happens that you cannot actually have physical eye contact with one or more of your monitors. The typical scenario of such a case is when you need some of your monitors to face your audience during a presentation. There is no easy way to view what your audience sees without moving yourself in a proper position in space in order to establish eye contact with the presentation monitor.

Multi-Monitor Viewer is a software that allows for viewing the contents of any of your monitors inside a typical application window, making browsing the contents of your monitors super easy.

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Turn Off the Lights for Firefox – Turn Off the Lights for Firefox is a browser extension that lets users obscure everything on their screen except the Flash or HTML5 video they’re watching, minimizing distractions and making for a more pleasant viewing experience.

A lamp icon is displayed in the browser menu bar or in the omnibox, and users click on the gray lamp icon to make the area surrounding the video fade. Clicking outside the video restores the rest of the screen. Users can adjust the opacity of the screen blocking and select a color other than black if desired.

Available for IE and Chrome.

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Vivaldi Snapshot – MajorGeek says: Vivaldi is a new browser from the founders of the original Opera Web Browser in 1994.

Vivaldi has an interface, if I had to compare, similar to Google Chrome. By default you have you forward, back, refresh and home keys next to the address bar. New tabs open with the simple + tab and close with the X tab. It has a tiny sidebar that has quick links to bookmarks, mail (not available yet), downloads, contacts and notes. Towards the bottom left, just above the status bar, there is the options gear icon which would make more sense if brought up to the top right or even the sidebar where people would look for it first.

You can look at the bottom and you will find the option to show or hide images as well as show only cached images to speed up browsing. On a web page you’re having difficulty reading? Just slide the bar to zoom in or out and reset. Between those 2 features you can go nuts changing how a page renders 15 different ways from filters, including grayscale and intensify, to 3D to fonts. This is great for anyone having difficulty reading a webpage or just to have a little fun.

Vivaldi enters a crowded and vocal browser market. People tend to love what they love for a long time. The name Vivaldi does not exactly roll off the tongue but so far they got a really good thing going here. I had some difficulty rendering pages in 3D and a few other very minor annoyances but you want to keep in mind that this is still in its early stages so let the developers know your thoughts. So far it’s done a lot of downloads and is well received on MajorGeeks. Who knows, it could be the next big thing?

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Inquiry Launched into New Zealand Mass Surveillance – New Zealand’s spy agency watchdog is launching an investigation into the scope of the country’s secret surveillance operations following a series of reports from The Intercept and its partners.

On Thursday, Cheryl Gwyn, New Zealand’s inspector-general of intelligence and security, announced that she would be opening an inquiry after receiving complaints about spying being conducted in the South Pacific by eavesdropping agency Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB.

In a press release, Gwyn’s office said: “The complaints follow recent public allegations about GCSB activities. The complaints, and these public allegations, raise wider questions regarding the collection, retention and sharing of communications data.”

This month, The Intercept has shined a light on the GCSB’s surveillance with investigative reports produced in partnership with the New Zealand Herald, Herald on Sunday, and Sunday-Star-Times.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 27, 2015

10 web-based tools to maximize productivity;  New Chrome extension throttles down webpage data usage;  When your fast PC suddenly slows down;  Pause YouTube videos with the spacebar in Chrome;  Skype for Web beta opens;  3 Ways to Fight Facebook Fatigue;  Crush Your Fantasy Draft With These 9 Baseball Apps;  Clean Reader: The app that censors rude words from ebooks;  Using Periscope or Meerkat? These accessories will help;  US offers rewards for fugitive Russian cybercriminals;  New 3D NAND flash will triple capacity of SSDs;  Microsoft releases second Xbox One April preview update;  Facebook’s 10 year plan: AI, VR, and the flying web;  Tim Cook plans to donate his wealth to charity;  UN to appoint watchdog to focus on privacy in digital age.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 web-based tools to maximize productivity – The face of business productivity has drastically changed over the last five years. Gone are most of the client and client/server apps we once depended upon to do our work. Now, the speed of business is defined by the web. Web — that which drives an overwhelming majority of tasks for businesses. To that end, you need to consider web-based productivity tools. But which tools should you be looking at? Here are 10 solid tools that may fit into your business model.

When your fast PC suddenly slows down – Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious fix: Have you rebooted lately? A lot of people leave their PCs on 24/7, or put them into sleep or hibernation mode rather than shutting them down completely. But a simple, full reboot can clean out a lot of Windows’ temporary cobwebs. Did that do the trick? If not, we’ll have to do some detective work.

New Chrome extension throttles down webpage data usage – Sometimes, you just need to throttle down on your data consumption when browsing. Maybe you’re tethering a computer to your smartphone and don’t want to gobble up plan data, or are on a public WiFi network. Maybe the WiFi in your hotel is slow. Whatever the case, it’s sometimes best to use as little data as possible to get the job done. To that, Google has unveiled a beta Chrome extension that will compress webpage data for you. In addition to the desktop experience, the beta feature is also available for Android and iOS Chrome browsers. Under the settings menu, find ‘Data Saver’, and enable it.

Pause YouTube videos with the spacebar in Chrome – With the Chrome extension YouTube Pause, you can turn your spacebar into a play/pause button for YouTube. Simply install the extension and you’ll be off and running; YouTube Pause does not require a restart of Chrome and does not include any settings. A search for a similar add-on for Firefox came up empty, but YouTube Smart Pause automatically pauses YouTube videos when you switch tabs in Firefox or to another application.

3 Ways to Fight Facebook Fatigue – If you’ve been on Facebook for more than a few years, there comes a point where you feel overwhelmed with all the status updates, photos, and videos. And chances are, a lot of that content is stuff you could probably do without, but you’re not sure how to unclutter your feed, short of unfriending a bunch of people. While unfriending someone is still an option, there are a few ways to streamline your information intake without the bruised egos that come with ditching online friends.

How to embed a Facebook video on your website – It goes without saying there’s value in embedding videos from Facebook and keeping users on a site longer. Not to mention, this also helps boost Facebook’s video stats; increasingly competing with YouTube. Embedding a Facebook is done by copying the embed code Facebook provides you with, and pasting it into the appropriate section of your site. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Skype coming to a browser near you, Skype for Web beta opens – If you are a heavy user of Skype, you will know that as of right now, you need an app to fully use the service. But, that is about to change as Skype has opened up a private ‘Skype for Web’ beta that is now rolling out to some users. As you can see from the screenshots in this post, the web version of Skype has many of the same features as the apps that the company offers on nearly every platform. Basic chat and video chat is currently supported, along with regular voice calls.

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Open source LibreOffice coming soon to a browser near you – If you’re anything of an open source (or free and open source) software advocate, chances are you are well familiar with the attempts to produce a productivity suite to rival and replace Microsoft Office. It has been a long and rather uphill journey, though with relative success in some some quarters. But with Microsoft now spreading its wings to other platforms, particularly mobile and the Web, the battleground has also changed drastically. Already four years in the making, an online version of the LibreOffice suite might soon become reality if this new partnership between companies really bear fruit.

Crush Your Fantasy Draft With These 9 Baseball Apps – It might not look like baseball season yet depending on where you live, but Spring Training is about to wrap up, which means the boys of summer will soon be headed north.That means fans are hunkering down in their basements for their fantasy baseball draft. But rather than lugging a laptop and piles of rotisserie guides to the big event, download some of these apps to your tablet or smartphone instead. Designed from the ground up to help you build a powerhouse fantasy franchise, they’re all you need to dominate your league this year.

Periscope, Twitter’s answer to Meerkat-style live streaming, is now available – Periscope arrives today on iPhone, with streams also viewable on the web. (An Android version is forthcoming.) Like Meerkat, it allows you to broadcast whatever you’re doing — whether it’s breaking news or making breakfast — live, through video, with a couple of taps. Unlike Meerkat, Periscope can save streams so that you can replay them later. It turns out to be Periscope’s killer feature — and the main reason that it’s likely to become my live-streaming platform of choice.

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Using Periscope or Meerkat? These accessories will help – Now that we’ve got Periscope and Meerkat, you’re thinking about trying to become the next viral thing, aren’t you? We know you are, and it’s alright. We accept your desire to cash in your 15 minutes of fame. Heck, we encourage it! We want you to be successful so much, we’re going to let you in on some secrets for getting the most out of your smartphone for live video. With a few accessories, you can make your Meerkatting or Periscoping or Meerscoping or Perikatting much better.

Whipclip Launches So You Can Legally Share Your Favorite TV Moments – There’s a lot of talk about how social media has become the new watercooler for discussing TV’s funny, crazy, or otherwise memorable moments. What’s been more hit-or-miss, however, is finding the actual footage that everyone’s talking about. So a startup called Whipclip is launching an iPhone app of the same name today that makes it easy and legal to find and share some of your favorite TV clips. (There are plans for an Android app, too.)

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UltraTuner for Android launches to keep your guitar in tune – The UltraTuner app for Android users is now available to download. The app is designed to make it easy to keep your guitar tuned using an app that runs on your smartphone rather than having to keep a dedicated tuner with you. This app is already available for iOS users.

Clean Reader: The app that censors rude words from ebooks – An ebook reader app allows sensitive readers to censor the naughty words they find offensive, replacing them with less risque alternatives.

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Digi.me gives away free backup software to keep your social media memories intact – One in three people use social media on a regular basis however only one in four people make a back-up of their social data. As 29 percent of disasters are accidental, what would you do if you lost all your precious photos and their comments, likes, shares or tags?

Security:

Noose around Internet’s TLS system tightens with 2 new decryption attacks – The noose around the neck of the Internet’s most widely used encryption scheme got a little tighter this month with the disclosure of two new attacks that can retrieve passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive data from some transmissions protected by secure sockets layer and transport layer security protocols. Both attacks work against the RC4 stream cipher, which is estimated to encrypt about 30 percent of today’s TLS traffic. Cryptographers have long known that some of the pseudo-random bytes RC4 uses to encode messages were predictable, but it wasn’t until 2013 that researchers devised a practical way to exploit the shortcoming.

18% more security vulnerabilities in 2014, according to Secunia – After culling data from millions of PCs around the world, Secunia has released its 2015 Vulnerability Review. Read about the report’s findings and their significance.

Google boosts Safe Browsing API – Summary:The latest update shores up browser defense against malware, phishing and unwanted software.

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US offers rewards for fugitive Russian cybercriminals – The U.S. government is offering multimillion dollar rewards for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of two alleged Russian hackers. Both were indicted in U.S. courts for their roles in “Carder.ru,” a website and international enterprise that principally operated out of Las Vegas. The site was taken down by law enforcement in March 2012 and 19 people arrested for their role in crimes that are estimated to have cost at least $50 million [m], according to the State Department.

Company News:

As Twitter launches Periscope, Meerkat announces $14 million in funding – This morning saw dueling announcements in the world of live-streaming apps. Twitter finally pushed Periscope to the public, and Meerkat announced it had raised a pile of cash with strong connections to Hollywood. Right now Meerkat has the hype, coming off a strong SXSW and high-profile celebrity users like Jimmy Fallon. At the same time, Meerkat relies heavily on Twitter for its distribution. That puts it in a perilous position, something we saw at work when Twitter cut off Meerkat’s access to its social graph.

New 3D NAND flash will triple capacity of SSDs, Intel and Micron say – Standard consumer SSDs will increase up to an astounding 10TB of storage, thanks to a new type of 3D NAND flash memory that Intel and Micron introduced Thursday morning. The two companies, longtime joint partners in NAND flash development, said the breakthrough isn’t to make larger flash chips, but thicker ones. Much like Manhattan, when you’re out of space, the only way to go is up. The chips are already sampling at both companies, and Intel said it expects to offer products for sale using the 3D chips in the later half of this year. But how long will the chips last before they fail? That information wasn’t disclosed. Intel did say it expects to offer products using the new NAND chips this year.

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Uber announces new global ‘code of conduct’, safety guidelines – No stranger to controversy, Uber is as much PR-spin company than it is ride-sharing entity. Following some serious allegations about passenger safety, the latest being the alleged rape of a passenger in India late last year, Uber said they’d pen some guidelines for best practices on how to react to such events. Now, the company has a code of conduct for drivers, as well as incident response teams and a safety advisory board. Perhaps most assuring is Uber’s commitment to working with law enforcement fully.

PayPal agrees to pay $7.7 million for alleged sanctions violations – On Wednesday afternoon, PayPal reached a settlement with the US Treasury Department, agreeing that it would pay $7.7 million for allegedly processing payments to people in countries under sanction as well as to a man the US has listed as involved in the nuclear weapons black market. The company neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, but it voluntarily handed over its transaction data to the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). In its settlement agreement with PayPal, the Treasury accused the company of failing to screen its in-process transactions until 2013.

Google Takes Its Amazon-Style Starred Product Ratings To Europe To Boost Shopping Searches – While Amazon is expanding its logistics and delivery business to complement its e-commerce portal, Google is working on ways to make its search experience online more like Amazon’s to grow the number of people who use Google to look for and buy products. Today Google announced that it is turning on Product Ratings in the UK, France and Germany. Product ratings, first launched in the U.S. last year, are essentially Google’s play at making its search results look less static, and more like Amazon’s, to the average consumer.

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Salesforce abandons all future Indiana plans following passage of SB 101 – On Thursday, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced plans to avoid the state of Indiana for any future company events following the passage of that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination,” Benioff wrote on his personal Twitter account. He then emphasized his “employees’ and customers’ outrage” over the bill and said that he would “dramatically reduce” the company’s investment in Indiana as a result.

Games and Entertainment:

Google’s Nexus Player is now on sale in the UK for £79.99 – Google unveiled its Nexus Player back in October, alongside its new Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet. The Player is the company’s showcase device for its nascent Android TV platform, offering access to movies, TV shows, music, apps and other content, with a UI designed for the big screen in your living room. Right on cue, Google has now announced that the device is launching in the UK today, promising availability at Argos, Currys PC World, Amazon, John Lewis and eBuyer, as well as its new Google Store, which launched a couple of weeks ago.

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Xbox Live Gold members being appreciated in April with double “Games with Gold” offer – While we shared the ‘Deals of the Week’ with you a couple of days ago, it look like Microsoft is ready to bless its loyal Xbox Live Gold members for the month of April. In appreciation of its customers, the company is doubling its ‘Games with Gold’ offering. That means that Xbox One owners will be able to download two free games and Xbox 360 owners will receive four free games.

Grand Theft Auto V update will fix graphics quality issue – If you’re an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 owner and you’ve recently updated Grand Theft Auto V with Title Update 1.08, you’ve likely noticed a problem that has managed to catch Rockstar Games’ attention: the graphics quality took a nose dive, and the enjoyability of gameplay went with it. Gamers have been complaining about this issue, and today Rockstar announced that it has set its sights on the problem. There’s no fix yet, but one is being looked into, and as you’d expect, gamers will be given an update about when it is available.

How to test your PC’s DirectX 12 performance today – The final release of DirectX 12 and Windows 10 is months away but if you’re itching to test your system’s DX12 theoretical performance today, here’s how you can do it. First, you’ll need to have the 64-bit version of the Windows 10 Technical Preview installed. The 32-bit version is not supported. Earlier preview builds had DirectX 12 components aboard but it will take the latest one (build 10041) to enable the DX12 functionality. If haven’t installed Windows 10 yet, here’s everything you need to get it up and running.

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3DMark’s new API Overheat Feature Test measures the performance difference between DirectX11 and the new Windows 10-only DirectX 12.

Microsoft releases second Xbox One April preview update, brings voice messages and more – Following the update that was released for the Xbox One in the preview last week, featuring game hub links and more detailed achievement notifications, Microsoft has now released the second preview update for the month of April. The new update focuses mainly on enhancing the social features of the console, making it easier to keep in touch with friends on Xbox One or Xbox 360, and include the following:

Off Topic (Sort of):

Renault Twizy 45 is legal to drive in France at 14 years old – One thing teens have in common the world over is that most of them look forward to getting a license to drive on their own. In France, teens can now get a license to drive early for a little EV called the Renault Twizy 45. The little car can be driven on the roads by drivers as young as 14 years old. The Twizy 45 is considered by Renault a safer and more comfortable alternative to a scooter. It comes with an airbag, double seatbelts, disc brakes, and a protective cell. The car is very small measuring 2.34-meters long x 1.24-metres wide and driver and passenger sit in a tandem arrangement. The Twizy 45 has 5hp and a top speed of 28mph. The battery pack needs 3.5 hours to charge fully via a standard 3-pin plug. With a full charge, the vehicle can drive about 60 miles per charge.

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Two students turn a subwoofer into a fire extinguisher, fight fire with sound – In the future, the range hood in your kitchen may be able to automatically put out fires. It won’t do it with a dry chemical or a foam, either. It’ll use sound. Two engineering students at George Mason University, Seth Robertson and Viet Tran, have been working on a portable device that can do just that, and they now have a working prototype. Their contraption makes use of an ATX power supply and a Pyle subwoofer to produce fire-fighting low-frequency sound waves. You can see how it all goes down in the duo’s amazing demo video: it takes just seconds for their invention to extinguish a simulated kitchen fire:

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Facebook’s Aquila Drone Will Beam Down Internet Access With Lasers – Codenamed Aquila, the drone has a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 767 yet uses lightweight materials that allow it to weigh less than a car. Aquila has to be incredibly light, because it’s going to be kept aloft for as long as three months at a time using solar power. Just staying in the air for that long is a challenge, but Facebook’s also going to be pushing Internet access down to people 60,000-90,000 feet below using lasers, as well as maintaining communications between drones to maintain coverage across wider regions.

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Facebook’s 10 year plan: AI, VR, and the flying web – Facebook may be best known for providing a route for former schoolfriends to annoy you with their baby photos, but the social site is also looking to bring the next generation of internet users online and give developers the tools to lure them. A combination of virtual reality, vast data centers, newly open-sourced coding tools, and innovative and less expensive web-delivery systems like drones were all on the agenda for Facebook’s second day F8 2015 keynote, along with how to teach an artificial intelligence about Lord of the Rings.

Beer wear: Dress made from bacterial-fermented brew – You see the dress. It’s fun, flouncy and bouncy with a fitted top and an exuberant puff of fabric at the bottom. It looks like it came from some young, hip fashion designer. But this dress has a secret. The fabric didn’t come from some high-end store catering to Parisian clothing makers. It came from beer.

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This dress started with a cold one. Nanollose

Apple’s Tim Cook plans to donate his wealth to charity – Cook is part of a group of millionaire and billionaire tech executives who believe in sharing their wealth. Gates is the most well-known philanthropist in the group; with his wife, Melinda, he’s donated $30.2 billion, or 37 percent of his net worth, according to Forbes. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given away $1.5 billion, or 4 percent of his net worth over his lifetime. Other company chiefs, like Google co-founder Sergey Brin, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, are known for giving to charity.

Something to think about:

“When you appeal to force, there’s one thing you must never do – lose.”

–    Dwight D. Eisenhower

Today’s Free Downloads:

Product Key Decryptor – Product Key Decryptor is the FREE Tool to Recover License CD Keys of over 200 popular software including Windows, Adobe, Winamp etc.

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SSD-Z 15.03.15 Beta – SSD-Z is an information tool for Solid State Drives and other disk devices.

Using a database, it will show information about your SSD, such as the controller, processing tech, NAND type etc.

Other useful information related to disk devices are also shown, such as S.M.A.R.T. status and partition layout.

Features:

Details of the controller and processing tech of NAND chips (for known devices).

Verify that TRIM is enabled for your system and SSDs.

S.M.A.R.T. status and full list of all the device’s available attributes.

List of all partitions. Including hidden, unmapped and boot partitions.

Benchmark IOPS, transfer speed and random access time (work in progress)

View the raw device identify data words.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Is it legal for US military to scan the public’s computers for kid porn? – A federal appeals court is having second thoughts about its decision frowning on the US Navy for scanning every computer in the state of Washington accessing Gnutella, a large peer-to-peer network.

The September decision (PDF) thwarted a child pornography prosecution that began when a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent in Georgia discovered the illicit images on a civilian’s computer in Washington state. The agent was using a law-enforcement computer program called RoundUp to search for hashed images of child pornography.

Following the court’s 3-0 decision, the Department of Justice petitioned for a rehearing. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday to revisit the dispute with a larger, 11-judge panel.

In September, a three-judge panel ruled that the military unlawfully intruded into civilian affairs. Allowing the prosecution to go forward, the court ruled, would render “meaningless” the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA). The PCA largely prohibits the military from enforcing civilian law, the court ruled. The PCA was first passed in 1878.

Why Canada’s democracy rates a sad ‘C’ grade – Canadians have so little trust in our elected MPs and are so turned off by politics that the legitimacy of our entire democratic system is at risk.

Indeed, politics is now so despised that it repels more people than it attracts, especially among young Canadians.

Those jarring statements aren’t the rants of an out-of-touch political scientist, but the feelings of the vast majority of Canadians who took part in a massive national survey on the state of our democracy.

The survey, released Wednesday by Samara Canada, a respected non-profit think tank devoted to promoting democracy, found that most Canadians don’t trust MPs, don’t believe politics affects our daily lives and don’t participate at all in political activities.

At the same time, it revealed that most of us think politicians don’t care at all what we say or what we want, rather they’re just after our votes.

The situation is so bad that Samara gave our democracy a sad “C” grade in its first-ever report, Democracy 360, on the state of our democratic system.

Why is it that bad? More important, why should we care?

UN to appoint watchdog to focus on privacy in digital age – The Human Rights Council of the United Nations has voted in favor of a resolution backed by Germany and Brazil to appoint an independent watchdog or ‘special rapporteur’ to monitor privacy rights in the digital age.

The council said Thursday that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy.

The proposed appointment of the rapporteur is likely to be mainly symbolic as the official’s functions will be mainly advisory. But it reflects continuing concerns around the world about privacy in the wake of disclosures of U.S. surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden.

The resolution refers to the deep concern of the Human Rights Council at the negative impact on the exercise of human rights of surveillance or interception of communications both within countries and abroad, and of the collection of personal data, in particular when carried out on a mass scale.

Inquiry Launched into New Zealand Mass Surveillance – New Zealand’s spy agency watchdog is launching an investigation into the scope of the country’s secret surveillance operations following a series of reports from The Intercept and its partners.

On Thursday, Cheryl Gwyn, New Zealand’s inspector-general of intelligence and security, announced that she would be opening an inquiry after receiving complaints about spying being conducted in the South Pacific by eavesdropping agency Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB.

In a press release, Gwyn’s office said: “The complaints follow recent public allegations about GCSB activities. The complaints, and these public allegations, raise wider questions regarding the collection, retention and sharing of communications data.”

This month, The Intercept has shined a light on the GCSB’s surveillance with investigative reports produced in partnership with the New Zealand Herald, Herald on Sunday, and Sunday-Star-Times.

The reports, based on information from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and other sources, have revealed how the GCSB has been intercepting communications in bulk across a variety of neighboring South Pacific islands, raising concerns that New Zealand citizens’ emails and phone calls are being swept up in the dragnet.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 26, 2015

Tech coalition including Microsoft, Apple, and Google presses attack on the Patriot Act;  Who’s in charge, here? The White House, or an advertising company in California?  9 compelling reasons to keep your old PC instead of upgrading;  These Are the 5 Best iPhone Apps of the Week;  Five free apps for dealing with hardware problems;  USB 3.1 set to reach desktops;  10 cheap or free ways to make your old PC run faster;  Kano OS made free for Raspberry Pi 2;  Router hack is injecting ads and porn into random websites;  New York threatens action if RadioShack sells data;  Fan TV’s New App Is A Must-Have For Cord Cutters;  Bill Gates recommends these essential readings;  Google awarded patent for their smart contact lens;  Who Has the Fastest Web Connections? (Hint: Not the U.S.);  Router Password Decryptor (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

New York threatens action if RadioShack sells customer data – New York’s attorney general said his office will take “appropriate action” if personal data on millions of RadioShack customers is handed over as part of a just-concluded bankruptcy sale. The names and physical addresses of 65 million customers and email addresses of 13 million customers were among the assets listed as part of the sale, which concluded this week but has yet to be approved by a bankruptcy court. “When a company collects private customer data on the condition that it will not be resold, it is the company’s responsibility to uphold their end of the bargain,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement.

As the Snowden leaks began, there was “fear and panic” in Congress – Minutes after the first NSA leak was published, the phones of US lawmakers began to buzz, hours before most of America would find out over their morning coffee.

Run this Installer Hijacking Scanner app to see if your older Android phone is at risk – Half of all Android phones still run Android 4.2 or older. If they also buy from third-party app stores, they could be vulnerable to a hijacking app. This scanner will tell you if your phone is at risk.

These Are the 5 Best iPhone Apps of the Week –  It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found some apps actually worth downloading.

Five free apps for dealing with hardware problems – From bad memory to missing drivers, PC hardware can exhibit aggravating problems that you’ll need to troubleshoot. Here are five apps that can help.

9 compelling reasons to keep your old PC instead of upgrading – Few can withstand the siren song of the latest and greatest gear, the deep allure of a new and shiny gadget—but that doesn’t mean that tossing your old computer in the trash and picking up a fresh PC is necessarily a smart idea. While gamers and hardcore video editors always stand to gain extra performance out of fresh firepower, more casual users might be better off saving their cash and sticking with the PC you already own. Here’s why.

10 cheap or free ways to make your old PC run faster – There’s a reason that unboxing videos and the phrase “new car smell” are firmly ensconced in the public groupmind. New stuff is exciting! New stuff is (theoretically) better! New stuff is just plain cool. But new stuff also costs an arm and a leg—at least if you’re talking about a new PC. And you might not even truly need a new PC to accomplish what you’re looking to do. Fortunately, there are a slew of ways to breathe new life into an older PC that’s starting to feel a little pokey. Even better: Most are outright free, a couple of (still low-cost) hardware upgrades aside. Sure, these tweaks and tips aren’t as thrilling as booting up a brand new PC for the first time—but they’ll let you continue to get the job done with the gear you already have.

BitDefender, Kaspersky top list of best Windows 8.1 antivirus software – In sales, they say that you’re only as good as your last month’s figures. Ditto for antivirus software. And right now, BitDefender, Kaspersky, and Qihoo 360 are the best in the business. AV-Test, one of the two leading antivirus testing houses, released its February antivirus ratings for Windows 8.1 PCs early Wednesday, assessing the 27 or so available antimalware packages on protection, performance, and usability. The results shouldn’t surprise you: The bigger names in the industry rose to the top, while at the bottom—as usual—sat Microsoft.

The Beastgrip Pro Turns Your Phone Into A Mobile Video Rig – The Beastgrip Pro is a rig system for your phone that lets you take better photos and video by adding stability, mics, lights, and lenses. Nearly every aspect is modular or expandable. Depending on what you need to shoot, you might put your phone on a tripod for smoother shots, add a directional mic for better audio during interviews, or swap out lenses to capture wide-angle footage or to get better distance shots without hurting quality as with digital zoom. Every mount or thread uses a common photography standard, making it a great option for getting kids started with video using second-hand gear or for using your phone as an emergency on-shoot backup. Beastgrip’s rig is now available for pre-order on Kickstarter, coming in at $70 for the main rig and $105 if you want the Depth of Field adapter and wide-angle lens.

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USB 3.1 set to reach desktops – The emerging USB 3.1 standard is set to reach desktops as hardware companies release motherboards with ports that can transfer data twice as fast as the previous USB technology. MSI on Wednesday announced a 970A SLI Krait motherboard that will support the AMD processors and the USB 3.1 protocol. Motherboards with USB 3.1 ports have also been released by Gigabyte, ASRock and Asus, but those boards support Intel chips.

Kano OS made free for Raspberry Pi 2 – To quicken the development of Kano OS and its innards, the team behind the creation of the “fast, fun, friendly OS” have made it free to Raspberry Pi 2. This software works with games, web browsing, a video app, and lots of tools for software development. This system comes with a toolset of utilities for Raspberry Pi and the OS itself and is aimed at developers – though you could very well make your own tiny console with it if you do so wish.

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Google will finally improve Chrome scrolling using a Microsoft invention – Google is finally adopting a standard that supports both mouse and touch navigation for its Chrome browser. If you’ve used a copy of Chrome on a Windows tablet recently then you’ll probably be familiar with the poor scrolling performance and general touch support, and it’s something Google will now address across all of its versions of Chrome. Google revealed today that it plans to support Pointer Events, a standard that was first introduced by Microsoft in Internet Explorer. Google has traditionally focused its efforts on supporting Touch Events, a method used by Apple in its Safari browser. Microsoft, Mozilla, and Opera have all adopted Pointer Events, and Google says that feedback from the web community has led to the change in heart.

Amazon’s On-Demand Services Marketplace Launches Monday – Amazon’s Angie’s List competitor, called “Amazon Local Services,” has been rebranded as “Amazon Home Services” ahead of a larger launch happening Monday, sources familiar with the plans tell TechCrunch. The site, which previously featured only a limited number of service offerings in a handful of select markets, has also recently expanded to include a much larger number of categories of services as well as additional cities around the U.S.

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Security:

This router hack is injecting ads and porn into random websites – A new strain of malware is using routers to inject ads and pornography into websites, according to a report from Ara Labs. Once a router is compromised, the malware will load third-party content onto almost any website visited by the user. The attack alternates between loading ads and directly loading content from pornographic websites like adultyum.info and adultcameras.info. In both cases, it’s functioning as a basic adware attack, redirecting targets as a pay of generating paid traffic for a client. “Due to the nature of this scheme, there is no technology that is going to detect this automatically,” Ara said in a statement. The following video shows the clean, ad-based version of the attack. (Ara Labs described the other as “too graphic to publish.”)

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Microsoft blacklists latest rogue SSL certificates, Mozilla mulls sanctions for issuer – Microsoft has blacklisted a subordinate CA certificate that was wrongfully used to issue SSL certificates for several Google websites. The action will prevent those certificates from being used in Google website spoofing attacks against Internet Explorer users. Microsoft’s move, taken on Tuesday, came after Google reported that the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a certificate authority (CA) trusted by most browsers and operating systems, issued an intermediate certificate to an Egyptian company called MCS Holdings. The company then used it to generate SSL certificates for Google-owned websites without authorization.

Company News:

Facebook announces Messenger Platform and Businesses on Messenger – Today at the annual F8 developer conference, Facebook announced its new Messenger Platform as well as Businesses on Messenger to expand its traditional messaging application.

Mozilla Extends Its Default Google Search Blockout, Signs Up Yandex In Turkey – Mozilla last November made waves when it swapped out Google as the default search engine in its Firefox browser in the U.S., replacing it with Yahoo, and put Yandex in for Google in Russia at the same time. Today Mozilla announced an expansion of that strategy: Yandex will now also be the default search option in Turkey, once again replacing Google. Yandex is known as the Google of Russia, partly because of the appearance of its search product, and partly for its position as the leading search engine in the country — albeit with a more modest dominance; its market share is just under 60% right now, and 75% among Firefox users.

Facebook sued for alleged theft of data center design – Facebook is being sued by a British engineering company that claims the social network stole its technique for building data centers and, perhaps worse, is encouraging others to do the same through the Open Compute Project. BladeRoom Group says it contacted Facebook in 2011 about using its technique, which involves constructing data centers in a modular fashion from pre-fabricated parts. It’s intended to be a faster, more energy-efficient method. What happened next isn’t clear, since much of the public version of BRG’s lawsuit is redacted. But it claims Facebook ended up stealing its ideas and using them to build part of a data center in Lulea, Sweden, that opened last year.

Games and Entertainment:

Fan TV’s New App Is A Must-Have For Cord Cutters – As a cord cutter, one of the ongoing challenges is figuring out which shows and movies are available for streaming on services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu and others, and which are only available as paid downloads. A company called Fan TV is today introducing a new mobile application that will go a long way to help address this problem, by allowing you to search and save shows and movies you want to watch later – as well as get alerted to when they arrive on your preferred services.

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5 Reasons You Need to Check Out Cities: Skylines – Cities: Skylines, a PC game by a totally different studio (interlopers!) that’s singlehandedly revitalizing the city-building genre. And not in a “Look, here’s something more clever than SimCity!” way, so much as a “Hey, why not just do SimCity old school?” one. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why.

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PlayStation 4 Gets Suspend And Resume, External HD Backups On March 26 – The Suspend/Resume function means you won’t have to save to stop the action, and it’s much more convenient now that it survives the PS4’s Rest Mode, which puts the console into a low-power, stasis-like state. Previously, games could be temporarily paused like this, but only while you exited to the menu to quickly check on something else. Another anticipated new feature coming with Yukimura (PS4 software version 2.50 if you want to get technical) is the ability to back-up and restore console HDD content to an external USB drive. That means you can fully back up the system, including everything from settings, saved data an screenshots to games, patches and downloads.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Bill Gates recommends these essential readings to TED 2015 attendees – Although Gates was not a speaker at this year’s TED 2015 event, he was invited to attend and was asked by the team to recommend a list of books for the conference attendees. Naturally, Gates obliged and created a list with books that focus on health, business and the world. In no particular order, here is the list that Bill Gates put together for the attendees at TED 2015.

Business Adventures by John Brooks

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin

On Immunity by Eula Biss

Making the Modern World by Vaclav Smil

How Asia Works by Joe Studwell

How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff

For a full description of each book, head over to Gates’ site where he has a short synopsis of each book.

Google awarded patent for their smart contact lens – Remember the Google X skunkworks project that saw the company imagining contact lenses that could monitor your glucose levels? Sounded weird, and more like some means to an end for a bigger project. Then we found Google had a partner in Novartis, and the contact lens that could monitor your health seemed a bit closer to reality. It’s now even closer to being on your eye, as Google has been granted a patent to manufacture the lenses, which have multiple layers and their own chipset.

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The father of all humans lived 239,000 years ago – By sequencing the genomes of 2,636 Icelanders — the largest set ever obtained from a single population — researchers were able to identify that genetic mutations play a role in everything from Alzheimer’s disease to liver disease. The Icelandic data also suggest that humanity’s most recent common male ancestor, the “father” of us all, would have lived between 174,000 and 321,000 years ago. The estimate for the most recent common male ancestor contradicts some past findings. A 2013 study from the University of Arizona estimated that the age of the father of all humans is about 340,000 years old. But the Icelandic analysis indicates he probably lived about 239,000 years ago — a number that’s much closer to the estimate for humanity’s most recent common female ancestor, who lived about 200,000 years ago.

FTC hits back; Google investigation integrity questioned again – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is coming out against statements made last week by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), as well as new claims that Google had used its political ties to the Obama administration to obtain a favorable outcome in the FTC investigation into alleged anti-trust and unfair internet search practices. The FTC states that such claims are unfounded and undermine the integrity of its investigation, while the WSJ is giving weight to the idea that anti-trust investigation might not have had much integrity on the FTC’s part at all.

Who Has the Fastest Web Connections? (Hint: Not the U.S.) – Global average Internet connection speeds remained above the 4 Mbps threshold for broadband in the fourth quarter of 2014, increasing 0.7 percent to 4.5 Mbps, according to the latest report from Akamai. Despite a 12 percent decline, South Korea held its first-place position with a 22.2 Mbps average connection speed, followed by Hong Kong (16.8 Mbps) and Japan (15.2 Mbps). Sweden, Switzerland, and The Netherlands all landed in the 14 Mbps range, with Latvia (13 Mbps), Ireland (12.7 Mbps), the Czech Republic (12.3 Mbps), and Finland (12.1 Mbps) bringing up the rear. At 11.1 Mbps average connection speed, the U.S. did not break the top 10.

Something to think about:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

–     Richard Feynman

Today’s Free Downloads:

HTTPS Everywhere – HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.

It automatically switches thousands of sites from insecure “http” to secure “https”. It will protect you against many forms of surveillance and account hijacking, and some forms of censorship.

HTTPS Everywhere is produced as a collaboration between The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Many sites on the web offer some limited support for encryption over HTTPS, but make it difficult to use. For instance, they may default to unencrypted HTTP, or fill encrypted pages with links that go back to the unencrypted site. The HTTPS Everywhere extension fixes these problems by using a clever technology to rewrite requests to these sites to HTTPS.

DeepSound - DeepSound is a steganography tool and audio converter that hides secret data into audio files. The application also enables you to extract secret files directly from audio files or audio CD tracks.

DeepSound might be used as copyright marking software for wave, flac, wma, ape, and audio CD. DeepSound also support encrypting secret files using AES-256(Advanced Encryption Standard) to improve data protection.

The application additionally contains an easy to use Audio Converter Module that can encode several audio formats (FLAC, MP3, WMA, WAV, APE) to others (FLAC, MP3, WAV, APE).

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Router Password Decryptor – Router Password Decryptor is the FREE tool to instantly recover internet login/PPPoE authentication passwords, wireless WEP keys, WPA/WPA2 passphrases from your router/modem configuration file.

Currently it supports password recovery from following type of router/modems:

Cisco

Juniper

DLink

BSNL

In addition to this, it also has unique ‘Smart Mode’ feature (experimental) to recover passwords from any type of Router/Modem configuration file. It detects various password fields from such config file (XML only) and then automatically try to decrypt those passwords.

It also has quick link to Base64 Decoder which is useful in case you have found Base64 encoded password (ending with =) in the config file and automatic recovery is not working.

It is very easy to use tool with its cool GUI interface. Administrators & Penetration Testers will find it more useful to recover login passwords as well as wireless keys from the router configuration files.

It is fully portable and works on both 32-bit & 64-bit windows platforms.

Features:

Instantly decrypt and recover login/PPPoE/WEP/WPA/WPA2 Passwords from Router/Modem Config file

Supports Cisco/Juniper/DLink/BSNL modems/routers

Also has Smart Mode feature to recover password from any config file

Useful for Admins & Penetration Testers

Simple & elegant GUI interface makes it easy to use

Supports quick Drag & Drop of Router config file

Right click context menu to quickly copy the Password

Sort feature to arrange the displayed passwords

Save the recovered password list to HTML/XML/TEXT/CSV file

Fully Portable, does not require Java or .NET

Includes Installer for assisting you in local Installation & Uninstallation.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech coalition including Microsoft, Apple, and Google presses attack on the Patriot Act – Advocacy groups, major tech companies, and a coalition of huge firms including Google, Microsoft, and Apple have sent a letter to the Obama administration urging it to decisively end the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata, which expires June 1st as part of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Obama has already urged Congress to develop a new framework for handling metadata, proposing that telecom companies hang onto the records and only hand them over when law enforcement receives a court order. That proposal was made a year ago. If Congress wants to keep allowing the government to access these records — and, yeah, it probably does — it’ll have to act within the next several months.

“There must be a strong, clear, and effective end to bulk collection practices under the USA Patriot Act, including under the Section 215 records authority and Section 214 authority regarding pen registers and trap & trace devices,” the companies write in the letter, which was sent today and signed by nearly four dozen groups. “Any collection that does occur under those authorities should have appropriate safeguards in place to protect privacy and users’ rights.” Other signatories of the letter include Wikimedia, Mozilla, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, Silent Circle, the ACLU, and CloudFlare. The text of the letter is below:

Who’s in charge, here? The White House, or an advertising company in California? – Google and the White House manage to hook up more than the majority of married couples, having met up once a week for the past five years.

That’s the latest indicator of the powerful internet giant’s worrying cosy relationship with the Obama administration, pulled from logs requested by the Wall Street Journal.

The disclosure comes hot on the heels of last week’s revelations that US watchdog the FTC very nearly pursued an antitrust lawsuit against Google for unfairly burying rivals in its search results, but ultimately gave up the chase. Google denies any wrongdoing.

The relationship between the rich California corporation and the Obama administration has been going on for some time, and has resulted in a string of troubling situations – a few of which we documented in a report over the weekend.

The Journal today highlights that as the FTC neared its decision not to prosecute Google for abusing its dominant search and online advertising position, its senior executives had a sudden run of meetings both with the watchdog and the White House.

EU: Don’t use Facebook if you want to keep the NSA away from your data – In a key case before the European Union’s highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the European Commission admitted yesterday that the US-EU Safe Harbor framework for transatlantic data transfers does not adequately protect EU citizens’ data from US spying. The European Commission’s attorney Bernhard Schima told the CJEU’s attorney general: “You might consider closing your Facebook account if you have one,” euobserver reports.

The case before the CJEU is the result of complaints lodged against five US companies—Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Skype, and Yahoo—with the relevant data protection authorities in Germany, Ireland, and Luxembourg by the Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, supported by crowdfunding. Because of the important points of European law raised, the Irish High Court referred the Safe Harbor case to the CJEU.

California bill requires warrant for stingray use – A California state bill that would require a warrant to access all kinds of digital data passed its first hurdle after being approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

Among other sweeping new requirements to enhance digital privacy, the bill notably imposes a warrant requirement before police can access nearly any type of digital data produced by or contained within a device or service.

In other words, that would include any use of a stingray, also known as a cell-site simulator, which can not only used to determine a phone’s location, but can also intercept calls and text messages. During the act of locating a phone, stingrays also sweep up information about nearby phones—not just the target phone.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 25, 2015

14 Hidden Firefox Functions for Browsing Like a Boss;  RadioShack selling millions of email/home addresses;  Try these 5 undiscovered Google Drive tricks;  How smartphone reviews really work;  You don’t want a TV box, you want a Laptop;  Facebook launches ‘On This Day’ feature;  Hands-On: Linux UEFI multi-boot;  The National Power Grid Is Under Continuous Attack;  The 10 Best Wireless Routers;  Flash-based vulnerability on many websites three years later;  Half of Android devices open to silent hijack;  With Net Neutrality Lawsuit, Broadband Mafia Still Doesn’t Get It;  Xbox One and 360 Xbox Live Gold Deals of the Week;  Facebook Testing ‘Phone’ App for Android;  SUPERAntiSpyware (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

RadioShack is selling tens of millions of email and home addresses – Among the locations, trademarks, overpriced cables, and other assets that RadioShack is selling off as part of its bankruptcy filing are tens of millions of email addresses, home addresses, and customer names, all of which could end up in the hands of another company. As Bloomberg points out, RadioShack’s sale includes over 13 million email addresses and over 65 million custom names and physical addresses. That’s a lot of personal data! Standard General, RadioShack’s largest shareholder, is reported to have won the bid. But the purchase still has to be approved by a bankruptcy court, and Bloomberg reports that legal challenges may prevent Standard General from taking over the personal data.

Pointing up  RadioShack’s Privacy Policy (from the site) includes: We will not sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone at any time.

Try these 5 undiscovered Google Drive tricks – Google Drive and its attendant apps offer a wealth of tools to help you be more productive. Try these five for the biggest boost.

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How smartphone reviews really work – The inside scoop on what happens behind the scenes of a smartphone review, from someone who’s written more than a few of ‘em. Since we’re on the brink of a busy few weeks for smartphone reviews, I thought now would be a prime time to pull back the curtains and offer a frank walk-through of how the phone-reviewing process actually works.

Microsoft: Office will be free for devices under 10 inches – Microsoft believes that screens smaller than 10 inches aren’t used by ‘professionals,’ so don’t expect it to charge for editing and viewing Office documents. Oh, and the Surface Pro mini — probably dead.

You don’t want a TV box, you want a Laptop – Now that Apple is rumored to be releasing a new Apple TV box later this year, citizens of the mobile smart device universe have their respective TV-loving ears perked up once again. Do I need a new Apple TV? Maybe an Amazon Fire TV Stick instead? Perhaps I need to get something like a Roku, or maybe a Chromecast! Or – better yet – I could just use the old laptop that’s sitting in, on, or under my desk. The one I replaced years ago, but still works just fine. Before you buy anything, mentally access the contents of your home. Do you have a laptop computer hiding anywhere? An old laptop – a notebook computer you no longer use on a regular basis.

Zendo Is My New Favorite Secure Messaging App – Now you might well ask who needs (yet) another way to ping, poke, prod or otherwise pester their friends? The answer is simple: anyone who cares about privacy. So how does a new secure messaging app stand out in such a crowded space? By making something that’s super easy to use, given that security can still be synonymous with tedious complexity. And also by using a type of encryption that technically cannot be cracked. Something that’s impervious to man-in-the-middle attacks. Yet which has been overlooked by cryptographers for decades.

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Bezel-less Oppo R7 leaks on Chinese social media – Chinese smartphone maker Oppo appears to be doing some magic with the design of its upcoming Oppo R7 phone, if this leaked video appears to be true. The Android-powered handset alleged comes with almost non-existent bezels, with the large screen taking up the entire sides of the device, as you can see from the screen capture. The magic apparently lies in some visual trickery (which Oppo has filed a patent for) where the sides of the screen diffract the light to make it seem that the display extends all the way to the edge.

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14 Hidden Firefox Functions for Browsing Like a Boss – While all browsers share certain functionality and indeed learn from one another, there are certain quirks and functions that are unique to each. And Firefox is no different. You may be familiar with the many third-party extensions and add-ons that can amplify Firefox’s functionality, however there are a lot of little tricks already baked in to the software that you may not be using. Click through our slideshow to see 14 hidden Firefox functions.

Hands-On: Linux UEFI multi-boot, my way – Let’s start by clearly stating what this post is, and what it isn’t. It is a description of how I set up multi-boot for Linux systems, sometimes including Windows, using the GRUB bootloader. It is not intended to be a complete guide to Linux on UEFI firmware. There are certainly other ways to configure UEFI multi-boot – this is simply the way that I have found most useful and reliable to do it. OK? Good, here we go…

Facebook plans to let users read popular news sites without leaving Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg has often described Facebook as a newspaper for its users. A place where the stories that are interesting to them — the births, the birthdays, the parties, the gossip — are laid out every morning. Now, however, this comparison is becoming less metaphorical, with Facebook reportedly in talks with several publications — including Buzzfeed, National Geographic, and The New York Times — to post their content directly within the site. This means that stories wouldn’t just appear as links in the News Feed, but as content that can be share or liked without ever leaving Facebook.

Facebook officially launches nostalgia-inducing ‘On This Day’ feature – Starting today, when users visit Facebook on the web or on their phones, they’ll get an option to view the On This Day page (or you can go to the page directly, but it hasn’t rolled out to everyone just yet). From there, you’ll see the feed of content you posted in years past and have the option to share specific posts with your friends — but by default, only an individual user can see their On This Day feed. You can also then sign up for notifications so you remember to check it every day — that’s exactly what Timehop does to keep users coming back.

VIDEO: Facebook Testing ‘Phone’ App for Android – An accidental Facebook update revealed that the social network is testing a new Android app called Phone. Android Police was kind enough to take a screenshot of the update. It suggests that Facebook Phone could act as a native dialer that shows information about who is calling you, and prevent commonly blocked numbers from getting through.

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The 10 Best Wireless Routers – Fast throughput speeds, good range, easy set up and manageability, a solid feature set, and, of course, fair pricing are what make a top router. The 10 models that follow strike the best balance among all our criteria.

GifGrabber is a dedicated app for creating GIFs on your Mac – Creating an animated image of content on your Mac’s screen is something we should all know how to do. And now we do.

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Save your newly captured GIF, or edit it all within the app. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

UglyEmail reveals when senders secretly track your email activity, personal info – If you’re curious about which messages are monitoring you and which one’s aren’t, a new extension for Chrome called UglyEmail can help. This extension—by developer Sonny Tulyaganov—monitors your inbox to find messages using pixel tracking. This is a common marketing technique where companies insert a transparent (and therefore invisible to you) one-pixel image into a message. As soon as you open a message with a pixel tracker in it, the image pings the marketer’s servers and the information flow begins. Pixel tracking shows up in all kinds of messages, including newsletters you subscribe to. Thanks to UglyEmail you can find out when a message has a tracker and decide not to open that email.

Security:

The National Power Grid Is Under Almost Continuous Attack, Report Says – The U.S. national power grid faces physical or online attacks approximately “once every four days,” according to a new investigation by USA Today, threatening to plunge parts of the country into darkness. For its report, USA Today scrutinized public records, national energy data and records from 50 electric utilities. It found that from 2011 to 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy received 362 reports from electric utilities of physical or cyber attacks that interrupted power services. In 2013, a Department of Homeland Security branch recorded 161 cyber attacks on the energy sector, compared to just 31 in 2011.

Flash-based vulnerability lingers on many websites three years later – A large number of developers have failed to patch their Flash applications against a vulnerability that can be exploited to target Web users.

Half of Android devices open to silent hijack – Hacker Zhi Xu has found that seemingly legitimate apps can unleash a hidden dark side to compromise almost half of all Android devices. The Palo Alto Networks senior engineer says legitimate Google Play apps can establish a kind of beachhead on devices that can be invaded by a second app installed from legitimate third party stores like Amazon. The second app provides the first with the required access to compromise devices and steal all manner of data. Xu says the attack dubbed Android Installer Hijacking allows crims to replace apps without a user’s knowledge.

Researchers figured out how to hack computers using heat – Researchers at Ben-Gurion University have created a new piece of malware called BitWhisper. It’s not the kind of thing that organized cybercriminals would ever use to attack your home computer. BitWhisper is the kind of crazy hacking tool that you read about in a sci-fi novel — only it’s very real. Infected machines can transmit data using heat they produce. Commands, for example, can be passed from one system to another by modulating its temperature. The target machine’s thermal sensors pick up on the fluctuations and execute a predefined action. Small bits of captured data (like passwords) can also be transmitted this way. It’s not the most efficient way to siphon data off a machine, but it’s not meant to be. BitWhisper targets air-gapped systems, computers that are completely isolated from wireless and wired networks in order to keep them as secure as possible.

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Dell support tool put PCs at risk of malware infection – Attackers could have remotely installed malware on systems running a flawed Dell support tool used to detect customers’ products. A security researcher discovered the flaw in November and reported it to the PC manufacturer, which patched it in January. However, it’s not clear if the fix closed all avenues for abuse. Even with the flaw now patched, the fact that it existed in the first place may make some users anxious. Suspicions of hardware and software companies helping governments spy on users have intensified over the past two years, partially fueled by revelations of widespread surveillance disclosed by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Company News:

Microsoft Malaysia is offering a free return flight on Air Asia when you buy a Lumia 535 – Microsoft has teamed up with Air Asia to give 5,000 airline loyalty points to anyone who buys the Lumia 535 in Malaysia – enough to get a return flight to Phuket, Krabi or Singapore.

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Cyanogen’s next step: A BLU phone without Google apps – After amassing $80 million in funding, even without Microsoft’s help, and being valued at close to $1 billion, the tech world is keeping a close eye on Cyanogen, Inc. That, of course, is no reason for outspoken and, dare we say, almost belligerent CEO Kirt McMaster to start treading lightly and mincing words. In fact, he has fighting words: “We’re putting a bullet through Google’s head”, which is no small undertaking. And it’s all going to start with a smartphone that won’t have any of Google’s popular apps installed.

Google reportedly working on Gmail bill payment system – Google is continuing their email experiments, it seems. The latest isn’t a new way to get through your mail, as ‘Inbox’ is, but a method for making you stay put in your email app. A new report suggests Google is readying an in-email bill paying service named ‘Pony Express’ (hopefully just a code name), wherein Gmail users would be able to pay a bill electronically without ever leaving Gmail itself. If Google gives it the green-light, we’ll reportedly see Pony Express in the last quarter of this year.

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HP wants to make your devices sound better; partners with Bang & Olufsen – HP is teaming up with Bang & Olufsen in an effort to make their devices, even mobile ones, sound better. The partnership will see a few new features, including hardware changes, show up on laptops.

Games and Entertainment:

Amazon Fire TV gets a major update with support for hotel Wi-Fi, USB storage, and more – Users will be able to take their media streamer on the road, hook up external storage, and listen to more music through Prime Playlists.

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Xbox One and 360 Xbox Live Gold members “Deals of the Week” – As usual, it looks like Xbox One owners will be getting some great deals on some of the consoles latest titles that include: Forza Horizon 2, Evolve, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and WWE 2K15. Xbox 360 owners aren’t forgotten and although the game selection might not offer the latest titles, this week’s deals will see a up to 75% on titles like: XCOM: Enemy Unknown, XCOM: Enemy Within, Spec Ops: The Line, Duke Nukem Forever, Borderlands, Hitman Blood Money, Deus Ex Human Revolution, and Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light. Xbox 360 owners will also be able to get 50% off on WWE 2K15 and 35% off on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

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Bloodborne review: The joy of relearning what you already know – Make no mistake; Bloodborne is a Souls game in everything but name, sharing a development lineage in From Software and Director Hidetaka Miyazaki. From the controls to the way progress is lost upon death, the sound effects to the goofy ragdoll physics, anyone with a passing familiarity with the series will recognize Bloodborne as part of the same family. But Bloodborne marks a departure from the Souls name, even while keeping the series’ characteristic punishing repeat deaths, massive bosses, and environmental storytelling.

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Playing Bloodborne on a PS4 using an SSD could save hours of loading – This week the PS4 sees the release of a system seller game in the form of From Software’s Bloodborne. It looks gorgeous, the review scores we’ve seen are very high, and for fans of the Dark Souls games this release couldn’t come soon enough. However, you may want to consider upgrading your PS4 to use an SSD before installing the game, as it could knock hours off your play time. Bloodborne is a graphically intensive game, and that’s by no means a negative. It looks great, and for the most part manages to stick to a 30fps average frame rate. But that high level of detail comes at a price: load times

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X-Files 2015 guide: catching up with Mulder and Scully – This week it’s been confirmed by Fox and the original creator of the X-Files that a new series is about to be made. This new X-Files has tapped the original Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) to return for a 6-episode mini-season. For those of you ashamed at having never watched the original series or similarly ashamed that you’ve forgotten the details, the following miniature guide with gifs is made just for the likes of you.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

With Net Neutrality Lawsuit, Broadband Mafia Still Doesn’t Get It – We knew these lawsuits were coming. USTelecom, the trade group for broadband providers, has filed a rather peculiar pre-emptive lawsuit against the FCC’s new Open Internet rules, arguing that while USTelecom supports net neutrality, it doesn’t support the rules the FCC laid down to protect it. The specific argument is against Title II, utility-style regulation, but the FCC was forced into that when a court struck down its earlier, lighter set of rules in 2014. The real issue here is that the broadband industry, like everyone, would prefer to be self-policing. I’d also prefer to be self-policing. Wouldn’t you? Then you could decide what’s a crime for yourself, and decide whether you’d ever be punished.

How Bodies Were Buried During History’s Worst Epidemics – There’s a common belief that dead bodies pose a major risk of disease, which leads to a lot of hysteria during major epidemics. This is mostly a myth, studies have found. Even so, mass deaths during plagues have changed burial customs as people scrambled to prevent contamination or just find a place to put all the corpses. How do these pandemics alter the funeral practices in the affected areas during the outbreaks? I’ve been thinking a lot about these epidemics lately, and the way they alter the way people perceive death, so I examined three large and well-documented epidemics. One—the West Africa Ebola outbreak—is ongoing; the other two are historical.

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Spanish Flu, United States, 1918-1919

Australia found to have the world’s oldest asteroid impact zone – When we think of mass extinction, we tend to think of the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. That impact and its following mass extinction might not have been singular events. Australian scientist Dr. Andrew Glikson discovered twin asteroid impacts in Australia that may be ten times older than the dinosaur extinction. He has a theory that asteroid impacts throughout the history of the earth actually changed the way our planet and its species evolved, as each impact would have created an extinction and divergent species.

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This is what happens when a judge in New York orders an e-hit on a Chinese software biz – Fengtao is accused of breaking US laws by shipping software that circumvents the AACS encryption that’s supposed to prevent people from copying HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs. The Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator – a consortium that includes Disney, Intel, Microsoft, Panasonic, Warner Brothers, IBM, Toshiba and Sony, and looks after the AACS specification – is suing Fengtao to halt the distribution of DVDFab. The end result of this month’s injunction provides an intriguing insight into how internet companies, even those based outside America, respond to orders from US judges.

Something to think about:

“I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.”

–       Calvin Coolidge

Today’s Free Downloads:

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Schedule either Quick, Complete or Custom Scans Daily or Weekly to ensure your computer is free from harmful software. Remove spyware automatically.

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Blender – Blender is a free and open source 3D animation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation. Advanced users employ Blender’s API for Python scripting to customize the application and write specialized tools; often these are included in Blender’s future releases. Blender is well suited to individuals and small studios who benefit from its unified pipeline and responsive development process. Examples from many Blender-based projects are available in the showcase.

Blender is cross-platform and runs equally well on Linux, Windows and Macintosh computers. Its interface uses OpenGL to provide a consistent experience. To confirm specific compatibility, the list of supported platforms indicates those regularly tested by the development team.

As a community-driven project under the GNU General Public License (GPL), the public is empowered to make small and large changes to the code base, which leads to new features, responsive bug fixes, and better usability. Blender has no price tag, but you can invest, participate, and help to advance a powerful collaborative tool: Blender is your own 3D software.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Dutch service providers must delete retained telecom data – Dutch telecom providers have to delete data that had been retained under the now-scrapped data retention law, unless it is needed for business purposes.

The Dutch data retention law that required ISPs and telecommunications operators to store customer metadata for police investigations was scrapped by the District Court of the Hague earlier this month for violating fundamental privacy rights.

While most providers were quick to stop collecting the data, uncertainty remained about what should happen with the data that was already collected and stored when the law was in force.

However, all data retained because of the now defunct law should be deleted, Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur wrote in a letter to Parliament. That includes data that was retained before the law was annulled, a ministry spokesman said.

We know where you’ve been: Ars acquires 4.6M license plate scans from the cops – If you have driven in Oakland any time in the last few years, chances are good that the cops know where you’ve been, thanks to their 33 automated license plate readers (LPRs). Now Ars knows too. In response to a public records request, we obtained the entire LPR dataset of the Oakland Police Department (OPD), including more than 4.6 million reads of over 1.1 million unique plates between December 23, 2010 and May 31, 2014. The dataset is likely one of the largest ever publicly released in the United States—perhaps in the world.

Police Advocacy Group Leaves Few Fingerprints – The Law Enforcement Alliance of America once had offices in a nearby office park, but it abandoned them more than a year ago. It hasn’t filed required IRS reports in two years, and its leaders, once visible on television and in congressional hearings, have all but vanished.

But the nonprofit that calls itself “the nation’s largest coalition of law enforcement professionals, crime victims and concerned citizens” still has teeth. It has succeeded in helping knock out 12 state-level candidates in 14 years, including an Arkansas judicial candidate last year. In doing so, the group helped launch the current governors of Texas and Nevada to their stepping-stone positions as state attorneys general.

The LEAA uses brute tactics — parachuting into otherwise small-dollar races close to the end and buying up TV ads that accuse candidates of siding with “baby killers” and sexual predators.

“They can put out some sort of horrible attack ad on any judges that they want and really influence an election with a fairly small amount of money,” former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz said. “They’re buying seats on supreme courts in states all around the country.”

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 24, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PixelBlock running in Gmail. Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–    Donald Trump

Today’s Free Downloads:

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

You can use Audacity to:

Record live audio.

Record computer playback on any Windows Vista or later machine.

Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.

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

Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.

Change the speed or pitch of a recording.

And more!

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

The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.

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

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Screen shots from a personal system

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Groser ultimately failed to get the position.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 20, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security:

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

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

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

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

Company News:

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Entertainment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off Topic (Sort of):

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

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Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

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

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

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

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

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

Something to think about:

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

–     Mathew IngramThe Globe and Mail

Today’s Free Downloads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

iso, nrg, bin (read-only)

raw formats (img, ima, raw, vfd…)

dmg

sdi (some versions only)

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

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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