Tag Archives: tech

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 5, 2016

‘Guessing Attack’ Bypasses Credit Card Security in 6 Seconds;  WTF is AI?  Find out what your web browser is telling websites about you;  How to shop online and stay secure;  The Best iPad Apps of 2016;  Uber now monitors where you go after a ride, but you can stop it;  Free data platforms: How to choose a good one;  Android Security Bulletin November 2016: What you need to know;  How to reinstall Windows 10 without any bloatware;  Gifts for people who like to fix things – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

‘Guessing Attack’ Bypasses Credit Card Security in 6 Seconds – December is always a very busy time for the banks and credit card companies as we all scramble to purchase presents in time for Christmas. But it’s also a boon period for fraudsters who are trying to steal those precious card details. And now it seems, they can “guess hack” a credit card in mere seconds. A team of researchers at Newcastle University discovered two weaknesses in the way online transactions are verified using the Visa payment system. Neither weakness is of much use alone, but when used together, an attacker can recover a credit card’s security information in as little as six seconds.

How to shop online and stay secure – It’s that time of year again: Soon we’ll begin scouring the internet to find the lowest prices for holiday gifts. As a savvy online shopper, you’ll visit multiple websites to find the perfect deal, usually creating accounts with your credit card and other personal information. But when it’s time for checkout, don’t make the same mistakes I did. Protect yourself and your password.

Find out what your web browser is telling websites about you – Interested in knowing what information a website has access to about you as soon as you visit a page? Here are a couple of websites that will show you what information you are leaking as you browse the internet.

WTF is AI? – These days, AI is a term applied indiscriminately to a host of systems, and while I’d like to say that many stretch the definition, I can’t, because AI doesn’t really have a proper definition. Roughly speaking, we could say that it is a piece of software that attempts to replicate human thought processes or the results thereof. That leaves a lot of wiggle room, but we can work with it. You have AI that picks the next song to play you, AI that dynamically manages the legs of a robot, AI that picks out objects from an image and describes them, AI that translates from German to English to Russian to Korean and every which way. All of these are things humans excel at, and there are vast benefits to be gained from automating them well.

Jim Hillier: What are the Best PC Specs for You – Whenever someone asks me to build a custom machine for them, my first and most important question is always… “what will you be using it for?”. While some users might be financially comfortable enough to be unconcerned about price, most of us are subject to budgetary constraints and there’s not much point in paying a premium for high-end specs which are never going to come into play. So, the first and primary consideration should always be best value for the dollar. However, at the same time, you should, where budget allows, also factor in future-proofing… in other words, make sure your system implements as much of the latest available technology as possible.

The Best External Hard Drives of 2016 – Whether you need a sit-on-your-desk backup solution or a drive you can slip into a pocket to shuttle files, these top-rated external hard drives have your storage needs covered.

Flash’s slow death continues with Chrome 55 – Google is continuing its plan to phase out Flash in favor of HTML5 today by launching Chrome 55. With this new update, many sites around the web will begin defaulting to HTML5 instead of Flash. There are a few exceptions, but Chrome 55 largely implements the measures Google laid out earlier in the year.

The Best iPad Apps of 2016 – According to Apple, more than a million dedicated iPad apps have been released worldwide. The right app can transform the iPad, regardless of its size, into nearly anything you desire. Want to look for a job? Download the LinkedIn app. Want to whip up phat beats during the subway commute? Download GarageBand. Any task you want to do, there’s probably an app for that.

How to reinstall Windows 10 without any bloatware – Windows 10 actually has the ability to install just the OS without any additional software.

How to Turn on Cortana by Voice in Windows 10 – Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant is an integral part of Windows 10. But normally, to pose a question or command, you first have to click on the microphone icon next to Cortana’s “Ask me anything” field just to wake it up. But why bother clicking on something when you can use your voice? Through Microsoft’s “Hey Cortana” feature, you can get the attention of the voice assistant just by saying “Hey Cortana,” and segue into your converation seamlessly. Let’s see how this works.

Microsoft Teams: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about the chat-based communication and collaboration platform Microsoft Teams.

Windows 10 Creators Update to include new accessibility features for braille, narration – The Creators Update for Windows 10 is still a ways off from its spring 2017 release, but Microsoft continues to share what’s in development and what users can look forward to. The latest blog post from the company details some of the accessibility features that will be included with the update, allowing the Windows 10 OS to be just as easy to use for those with disabilities.

$49 Windows tablets, $1,000 PC discounts, and 50% off Xbox games highlight Microsoft deals – Microsoft’s “12 Days of Deals” contain some hidden gems, including $1,000 off selected PCs, discounts on Groove Music and Xbox Live Gold, as well as sweet stocking stuffers. Here, we tell you what to buy and what to skip.

Report: Microsoft’s Home Hub will chase Amazon’s Alexa and Echo as a software service – A Windows Central report suggests that Microsoft is indeed developing a smart-home solution, though its Home Hub may be a Windows 10 service rather than a device.

5 new tricks for Instagram addicts – Instagram has been rolling out monthly updates that are changing the way you can use the photo-sharing app, including a new live video option that’s already available to some users.

iHeartRadio partners with Napster for on-demand music streaming – The streaming music market is already a crowded one, but that isn’t stopping iHeartRadio, the conglomerate behind over 800 US radio stations, from jumping in. With updates to both its iOS and Android apps this week, the service has debuted two new paid subscription plans that allow users to stream music on-demand, thanks in part to a new partnership with Napster.

Free data platforms: How to choose a good one – Free online tools for understanding data abound, each promising to help your business make sense of its data troves. But how to choose one? Here are the factors to consider.

Google Pixel camera bug: five workarounds that may solve the issue – Google’s newly released Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are, in some cases, suffering from a serious camera issue that overlays magenta-colored streaks over images. This issue has been reported by Pixel owners over the last several weeks, and though Google is looking into the issue, there’s no solution at this time. However, some Pixel owners report finding troubleshooting techniques, of which these are the five most successful methods.

This Guy Built a Fake News Detector, Then Facebook Blocked It – Last night, TechCrunch ran a story purporting that Facebook was showing certain users red warning labels above fake news links. But as it happens, this wasn’t Facebook’s doing at all, but rather the work of a Chrome plugin called B.S. Detector, made by activist and independent journalist Daniel Sieradski. If that irony wasn’t interview-worthy enough, with the backdrop of an ongoing public crisis over Facebook’s involvement in fake news, the social network appears to have just actually just banned the plugin, according to Sieradski.

2016 Christmas gift guide: Gifts for people who like to fix things – If you’re in the business of repairing PCs, smartphones, or tablets, then you need the tools to help you get the job done in a fast, efficient, and safe way.

The Hottest Tech Toys for Kids – Every year, as the holidays roll around, children’s hearts are filled with joy and anticipation. Adult hearts, in turn, are filled with fear and trepidation. After all, how would you know if that DIY robot is a better buy for your youngster than that hoverboard all her classmates have been talking about? And even as junior yearns for that gizmo with the flashing lights and incessant music, is it really appropriate for their age? The choices are endless, the decisions daunting. Fear not, PCMag has you covered.

Security:

Android Security Bulletin November 2016: What you need to know – How did Android fare in the November Security Bulletin? It may come as no surprise to learn that our old friend the Mediaserver has returned with a critical vulnerability. We also see some new entries in the mix. Let’s dive in and see what’s what.

Jim Hillier: Is Your VPN Leaking – With the dramatic increase in tracking online activity, more and more users are turning to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to help mask their identity and whereabouts. The general expectation with VPNs is that they provide absolute privacy/anonymity, however, that is not always the case. Some VPNs will actually leak real IP and DNS addresses which, of course, negates the entire reason for using a VPN in the first place.

Uber now monitors where you go after a ride, but you can stop it – Uber now keeps track of where you go after your ride ends. The tracking spans the first five minutes after you reach your destination. The data gathered from this monitoring is used to improve Uber’s service, including pickups and drop-offs. If you, like many users, aren’t happy about being surveilled by the Uber app, you can disable the feature before your next trip.

Blame the ISPs rather than the routers – That its a new variant of Mirai, makes for sexy for headlines, but is not important. That five million devices may be vulnerable is also not important. And, It’s pretty much irrelevant that the buggy routers were produced by Acadyan and Zyxel. The most important issue in this latest router attack is that most of the blame falls on the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The routers were attacked on TCP port 7547, which is used by the TR-069 protocol (also known as CWMP or CPE WAN Management Protocol). Leaving port 7547 open would have been a non-issue if the ISPs had made better decisions. Its the network equivalent of not wearing seat belts. No surprise then, that customers were eventually thrown through the front window.

There’s a new DDoS army, and it could soon rival record-setting Mirai – For almost three months, Internet-of-things botnets built by software called Mirai have been a driving force behind a new breed of attacks so powerful they threaten the Internet as we know it. Now, a new botnet is emerging that could soon magnify or even rival that threat. The as-yet unnamed botnet was first detected on November 23, the day before the US Thanksgiving holiday. For exactly 8.5 hours, it delivered a non-stop stream of junk traffic to undisclosed targets, according to this post published Friday by content delivery network CloudFlare. Every day for the next six days at roughly the same time, the same network pumped out an almost identical barrage, which is aimed at a small number of targets mostly on the US West Coast. More recently, the attacks have run for 24 hours at a time.

Remote management app exposes millions of Android users to hacking – Poor implementation of encryption in a popular Android remote management application exposes millions of users to data theft and remote code execution attacks. According to researchers from mobile security firm Zimperium, the AirDroid screen-sharing and remote-control application sends authentication information encrypted with a hard-coded key. This information could allow man-in-the-middle attackers to push out malicious AirDroid add-on updates, which would then gain the permissions of the app itself.

Researchers find a way to bypass the iOS activation lock – The researchers crashed the lock screen by inserting long strings in the Wi-Fi configuration settings.

Company News:

Intel’s silence on Optane SSDs raises questions about launch and focus – There’s a lot of excitement about Intel’s superfast Optane SSDs, but products won’t be on shelves this year as the chipmaker had earlier promised.

In new lawsuit, Instacart shoppers say they were regularly underpaid – The Instacart lawsuit is one of several currently targeting so-called “sharing economy” startups, and they all get at the same question: can workers be accurately classified as independent contractors, or should they properly be designated as employees? In Instacart’s case, customers order groceries online, but those groceries are then picked up and delivered by the company’s shoppers. So, should those shoppers be treated as employees?

Volkswagen launches Moia, a new standalone mobility company – Volkswagen Group is making a significant bet on future mobility services with Moia, a new separate company that will exist under the VW umbrella of brands focused specifically on providing mobility solutions, including fleet-based commuter shuttles and, eventually, autonomous on-demand transportation.

Apple admits what caused your iPhone battery issue – Apple made a statement about the iPhone 6s this morning in China, adding details to a battery issue reported by users in China and the USA. This battery issue has affected a “small number of iPhone 6S devices,” said Apple. In addition to what was reported by Apple earlier, they’ve revealed details on the exact cause of the device switching off as it reaches 40% battery. It would seem that this is not a bug, but a sort of feature – as Apple says: “an iPhone is actually designed to shut down automatically under certain conditions.”

Apple Pay debuts in Spain with support for Mastercard and American Express – Apple Pay officially launched in Spain this week, making it the latest European nation to accept Apple’s contactless mobile payments service. It also comes shortly after similar debuts in Japan, New Zealand, and Russia. Using compatible iPhone models or an Apple Watch, Apple Pay will allow users to make fast and easy payments at 27 Spanish retailers simply by holding their device over an NFC terminal.

Pandora shares up 11% on acquisition report – Internet radio pioneer Pandora, saw its shares jump over 11% on Friday to $12.77, amid renewed acquisition speculation. A report from CNBC indicated that Pandora and SiriusXM are expected to discuss a possible purchase. The story cautions that there is “no assurance” that Pandora will reach a deal with SiriusXM or any other prospective buyers.

Games and Entertainment:

DirecTV NOW vs Sling TV vs PlayStation Vue: Streaming Showdown – The brave new world of live television is upon us, and it comes in three forms: PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and DirecTV NOW. Having multiple products to choose from is never a bad thing, but it does require more leg work. Which service has the features you can’t live without? Is there some hard-to-find fine print you should know about? Does the service you’re leaning toward offer the best value for your money? We’ve answered all those questions and more.

‘The Last Guardian’ Is a Game About the Only Pure Thing in Life: Dogs – Have you ever seen a dog about to jump into a pool for the very first time? It’s one of life’s great pleasures. The dog’s excited and afraid. It paws at the water hesitantly, preparing to leap in, then backs away at the last minute, because who know knows what the hell is going on in there. Then it’ll come back because the water’s so enticing. This will go on until the dog finally finds the courage to take the leap and discover that the pool is pure ecstasy. I’ve never been as excited about anything in my life as much as a dog can get excited about a pool. The Last Guardian, which after a decade in development is one of the most hotly anticipated games ever, expertly recreates that marvelous sight, only instead of a dog it’s a giant bird-dog-dragon hybrid creature named Trico.

Watch Dogs 2 review: A fresh, interesting rebirth that ditches the stale Ubisoft formula – Watch Dogs 2 is as big a series-defining comeback as Assassin’s Creed II was back in 2009—and it does it by burning away all the worst parts of Ubisoft’s formula.

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WWII fighter pilot game leans on Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy to get Kickstarter aloft – By gameplay concept alone, Iron Wings would be difficult to stand out from the crowd of Kickstarted video games begging for your dollar. It’s an air combat shooter proposed for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, and there have been plenty of those, through all periods of history, on consoles and PCs down through the years. What’s eye-catching about Iron Wings, by Messina, Italy-based Naps Team, is the cast: African-American pilots. And women. In World War II. It’s as if the studio — which dates to 1993 — understood how tough it would be to stand out using a bog-standard squadron of Allies, and the gameplay concepts they wish to introduce with Iron Wings wouldn’t be enough to set things apart.

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FCC says AT&T, Verizon are violating net neutrality with sponsored data plans – This week the FCC sent letters to both AT&T and Verizon, stating that zero-rated data — plans and services that don’t count against users’ monthly allotment — is a violation of net neutrality rules. For AT&T, this applies to their new DirecTV Now streaming video service, and for Verizon it’s their own Go90 video service. The FCC’s wireless communications chief Jon Wilkins wrote that the telecoms’ practices “inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the ‘virtuous cycle’ needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet.”

Ars Cardboard’s 2016 board game gift guide – Whether your giftee is a longtime gamer or a brand new convert, Ars Cardboard is here with a list of games to please players of every stripe. We’ve broken your friends and family into tidy little categories and provided a main pick and some alternatives for each demographic. Our main picks focus on titles released in the last year or two, but we dug into some older titles for our expanded picks. To boot, most games on this list are friendly to tabletop newbies.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The biggest threat to artificial intelligence: Human stupidity – Thoughtless use of artificial intelligence could be much more dangerous than the super-intelligent digital villains of science-fiction.

Another Android update betrayal: when will we learn? – This week another Android device less than 2-years old has been announced to be at its end-of-life for Android updates. It is my opinion that this happens all too often – that while it isn’t necessarily Google’s fault this happens, it should be made more clear. Clarity should be the name of the game when it comes to the promise of a smartphone that’ll last. Clarity should be at the forefront of the presentation of a brand new smartphone – especially when it costs several hundred dollars.

Op-ed: Stop pretending there’s a difference between “online” and “real life” – Sometimes I get into one of those conversations about the Internet where the only way I can reply is to quote from The IT Crowd: “Are you from the past?” I say that every time someone asserts that the online world is somehow separate from real life. You’d be surprised how much this comes up, even after all these years of people’s digital shenanigans leading to everything from espionage and murder to international video fame and fancy book deals. But now that the U.S. has a president-elect who communicates with the American people almost exclusively via Twitter and YouTube, it’s really time to stop kidding ourselves.

How will Silicon Valley respond to Trump? – Capital founding partner Freada Kapor Klein isn’t happy.  Klein, one of technology’s leading social activists and impact investors, has been “deeply troubled” by the election of Donald Trump. She is particularly disgusted by what she calls the “unleashing” of “horrific behavior” since the election, such as what she fears might even be the now acceptable use of the N word on the streets of San Francisco. So what can Silicon Valley do to respond to Trump? We need, Kapor Klein says, to “get out of our bubble”.

Something to think about:

“The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.”

–      H. L. Mencken    (1880 – 1956)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden says Petraeus shared ‘far more highly classified material than I ever did’ – Edward Snowden blasted the US justice department in an interview with Yahoo News on Sunday, saying “we have a two-tiered system of justice in the United States” that allows the well connected to get off with light punishments.

Snowden, a fugitive and former NSA contractor who revealed the organization’s worldwide spying powers in 2013, pointed to the case of former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus as evidence.

“Perhaps the best-known case in recent history here is General Petraeus who shared information that was far more highly classified than I ever did with journalists,” Snowden told Katie Couric, global news anchor at Yahoo. “And he shared this information not with the public for their benefit, but with his biographer and lover for personal benefit conversations that had information, detailed information, about military special access programs that’s classified above Top Secret, conversations with the president, and so on.”

Couric traveled to Moscow for the face-to-face interview, where Snowden remains in exile. The full interview will be available to view Monday on YouTube.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 2, 2016

Top Google Chrome productivity, privacy and security extensions 2016;  NFL streaming: how to watch football without CBS All Access;  How to use a tablet as a second display;  Tech on a Budget: 20 Gift Ideas Under $20;  A beginner’s guide to beefing up your privacy and security online;  The Best SSDs of 2016;  Dusk’s new app lets you live stream anonymously;  How to download, manage Netflix shows on your phone or tablet – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

A beginner’s guide to beefing up your privacy and security online – This is not a comprehensive guide to security, nor should it be considered good enough for professional activists or people who suspect they may be under targeted surveillance. This is for people who use their phones and computers for work and in their personal lives every single day and who want to reduce the chances that those devices and the accounts used by those devices will be compromised. And while security often comes at some cost to usability, we’ve also done our best not to impact the fundamental utility and convenience of your devices.

Top Google Chrome productivity, privacy and security extensions 2016 – If you are a Google Chrome user and you’re not making use of extensions, then you are really missing out. Here are a huge selection of extensions aimed specifically at boosting your productivity and privacy.

NFL streaming: how to watch football without CBS All Access – CBS has announced that its users will be able to stream some NFL games starting this upcoming Sunday. CBS says this is a multi-year deal between it and the NFL; once it kicks off, CBS All Access will offer all the NFL on CBS games, including halftime coverage, Thursday Night Football, and more. If you’re not a CBS All Access customer, though, or if you prefer greater access to NFL content, you’ve got a few other streaming options.

How to use a tablet as a second display – Tablets aren’t just for binge-watching the new Netflix “Gilmore Girls” miniseries or perusing the fake news on your Facebook feed. You can also put that bad boy to work as a second display. Two displays for a single computer give you more space to spread out your documents, spreadsheets and web browsers. If you already own an Android tablet, why not? It’s cheaper than buying an extra monitor and only requires a few app downloads. There are a few apps that let you do this, but for this guide, I’ve chosen iDisplay since it it has options for multiple platforms.

How to download, manage Netflix shows on your phone or tablet – The day has finally arrived! It’s now possible to download shows and movies using the Netflix app to watch when you’re on a plane, or without an internet connection. Heck, downloading Netflix content is a super easy way to save on your mobile data plan while on the go. Before you get too excited, the first thing to do is install the latest version of the Netflix app on your iOS or Android device. According to Netflix, the new feature works on Android devices running Android 4.4.2 and up, as well as iOS 8.0 or later.

Here are Google’s top apps, content for 2016 – The year is about to end, and as is the tradition almost every where, it’s a time for reminiscing and retrospectives. That’s true back in the analog days and still true even in today’s digital age. Being one of the biggest sources of digital content, Google Play has some insight into the hottest trends of the year. So naturally, Google is in the position to reveal what’s hot and what’s not as far as apps, music, and movies go. While some of them are as you would expect, there are others that will have you scratching your head.

Windows 10 tip: Jump through your list of installed apps – The Windows 10 Start menu includes a handy scrolling list of all the apps and desktop programs you’ve installed. It also offers a hidden alphabetical index. Here’s how to make that index visible.

How to restore missing desktop icons in Windows – You’ve lost your Windows desktop icons and you want them back. Here’s how to do it.

The Best SSDs of 2016 – External solid-state drives are faster, more affordable, and more versatile than ever. These are our top-rated SSDs, along with advice on how to shop for the right type of storage.

9 free ways to get the most out of Google’s Play Music app – Even if you don’t pony up $10 a month for Play Music, you can still upload your music collection, create and save “instant” mixes,” tweak your equalizer levels, set a sleep timer, and more.

Dusk’s new app lets you live stream anonymously – Stepping into this controversial space is a new app called Dusk, which lets you live stream anonymously to its online community, while protecting your identity through pixelated video and voice changed audio. The end result is something like an anonymous version of Periscope video, or a live video version of the secret-sharing app Whisper.

Switching from Android to iOS this holiday season? Here’s the guide that doesn’t come with the gift – Apple has made it incredibly easy to leave Android behind, but there are a few catches. Find out how to make the process super smooth for you and your loved ones.

Western Digital releases series of Raspberry Pi disk drives – Western Digital (WD) today introduced a new series of storage devices designed specifically for use with Raspberry Pi, a single-board micro PC. The WD PiDrive Foundation Edition drives include a microSD card preloaded with the custom New Out of Box Software OS installer. The drives are available in three capacities: a 375GB hard disk drive (HDD), a 250GB HDD and a 64GB flash drive. The 375GB and 250GB products include a WD PiDrive cable that ensures optimal powering of the hard drive and Raspberry Pi.

The best Raspberry Pi boards, accessories and alternative boards – The Raspberry Pi might be the name that springs to mind when people think of single board computers for homebrew projects, but there are other boards out there worth considering. Also added are a selection of accessories to help you make more from your project board.

Amid distraction fears, Android Auto gets “Ok Google” voice trigger – Google has enabled “Ok Google” voice triggers to Android Auto, allowing users of the in-car interface to issue commands or dictate messages without having to press a button first. Designed to increase in-car safety while still offering access to smartphone features users have progressively become dependent on, Android Auto relies on a customized interface designed for easier use while on the move. Until now, though, it had required users either press an on-screen button or a button on the steering wheel to actually get the system’s attention.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Now ready for business after four months of tweaks – The Windows 10 Anniversary Update that was released to Home users in the summer is now available under the Current Branch for Business servicing option.

How to fix iCloud calendar spam – For the last few weeks, some iCloud users have been experiencing an uptick in spammy Calendar invites to fake events and things like Ray-Ban sales and Ugg discounts. And unlike email spam, simply declining the events may make things worse, since it shows the spammers that your account is active, increasing the odds of getting more spam in the future. In a statement made to iMore yesterday, Apple commented that it is aware of the issue and is working to address it. Until that happens, iCloud spam will continue to be a frustrating situation for many. Fortunately there are a few options to deal with the spam.

Security:

Firefox zero-day: Mozilla, Tor issue critical patches to block active attacks – If the government created this Firefox and Tor Browser exploit, it just endangered all web users, argues Mozilla.

1 million Google accounts compromised by Android malware called Gooligan – Researchers say they’ve uncovered a family of Android-based malware that has compromised more than 1 million Google accounts, hundreds of them associated with enterprise users. Gooligan, as researchers from security firm Check Point Software Technologies have dubbed the malware, has been found in at least 86 apps available in third-party marketplaces. Once installed, it uses a process known as rooting to gain highly privileged system access to devices running version 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and KitKat) and version 5 (Lollipop) of Google’s Android operating system. Together, the vulnerable versions account for about 74 percent of users.

Find out if your Google account has been hacked – Check to see if your Android device has been hit by Gooligan and what to do if it has.

At least 10 million Android users imperiled by popular AirDroid app – For at least the past six months, a popular remote management app available in the official Google Play Store has opened tens of millions of Android users to code-execution and data-theft attacks when they use unsecured networks, researchers said Thursday.

Legal raids in five countries seize botnet servers, sinkhole 800,000+ domains – A botnet that has served up phishing attacks and at least 17 different malware families to victims for much of this decade has been taken down in a coordinated effort by an international group of law enforcement agencies and security firms. Law enforcement officials seized command and control servers and took control of more than 800,000 Internet domains used by the botnet, dubbed “Avalanche,” which has been in operation in some form since at least late 2009.

Amazon offers DDoS Protection with Shield – Frightened of your site getting blown off the internet with a distributed denial of service attack? Amazon can protect you with AWS Shield.

Company News:

Mozilla puts new money to use fighting for ‘internet health’ – After weaning itself from dependence on Google, the nonprofit plans to expand beyond the Firefox browser. That may clash with Trump administration priorities.

Fitbit is reportedly buying Pebble for $34 million-40 million – A report from The Information states that the fitness tech giant Fitbit is finalizing a deal to buy Pebble. The report suggests the price would be for “a small amount,” and an independent source confirmed to Engadget that Fitbit will buy Pebble for $34 to $40 million.

Nokia-branded Android phones begin arriving next year – Those of you who have a soft spot for Nokia will be pleased to hear that smartphones bearing the company’s name will be making a return next year. Today Nokia and HMD Global Oy announced the terms of their licensing agreement, which was signed six months ago. Perhaps most importantly, this means that Nokia will be entering the realm of Android, a move many fans wanted to see Nokia make before it was bought up by Microsoft.

GoPro lays off 15 percent of workforce, shutters entertainment division – GoPro on Wednesday said 200 employees, or 15 percent of its workforce, will be laid off as the action sports camera company looks to return to profitability. As part of the restructuring, GoPro will also reduce office space, shutter its entertainment division, and cancel seeking candidates for open job positions. The entertainment division was set to be GoPro’s saving grace, putting its cameras’ content on set-top boxes and other media streamers. Operating expenses are expected to drop $650 million after the restructuring.

Apple Is the Latest Tech Giant Reportedly Developing Its Own Drone Fleet – Amazon has drones preparing to deliver our groceries. Google’s Project Wing is preparing to deliver our groceries, too. Facebook has drones working to give us internet, and Microsoft drones are fighting Zika virus. And now Apple has drones for giving us better maps. According to Bloomberg sources, Apple is readying a drone fleet to improve its Maps service in a bid to catch up with mobile map megastar Google. Sources told Bloomberg that Apple will use drones to survey the Earth to update map information much faster and more accurately than its current methods, which involve a Google-like car loaded with cameras.

Games and Entertainment:

5 Games You’ll Want to Buy in December – The year is almost over. December is here, the holiday season is in full swing, and the video game launch flood is receding. With the overwhelming number of releases in October and November, December’s lighter fare is a welcome change of pace, and we’re sure your wallet appreciates it, too. But don’t fret; if you’re on the hunt for a last-minute gift or personal treat, December has a few hot titles that you definitely want to grab.

The big problems with Facebook Messenger Instant Games – In case you missed the news, games are now included on the ever-growing list of Facebook Messenger features. There are a lot of them, too, with arcade classics such as Arkanoid and PAC-MAN joining newer titles like Bust-A-Move Blitz and Words with Friends: Frenzy. It’s frankly an excellent idea that makes Messenger more attractive as a chatting platform, but it’s not without some glaring flaws at this early stage.

DirecTV Now FAQ: All the details on AT&T’s new streaming TV service – After months of hype with little substance, AT&T has launched DirecTV Now, a bundle of streaming channels that will compete with Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. While AT&T bills its new service as “TV beyond your wildest dreams,” on paper it’s not markedly different from its competitors. We’ll have more to say about how well the service performs in the coming weeks. For now, here are all the details we’ve gleaned from from AT&T’s public statements and a little bit of hands-on time:

Here are the 53 launch titles that will be available for the Oculus Touch controllers – The Oculus Rift’s motion controllers come out on December 6th, and Oculus just announced the list of over 50 Touch-compatible games and apps that will be available on the Oculus Store at launch. There are 53 launch titles in all, ranging from smaller indie games to major studio productions. Some of these titles were already in the store and are just getting updated with Touch support, while others are completely new and specifically designed to take advantage of the motion controllers.

Plex embraces Kodi as Plex Media Player becomes available to all – For the past year or so, popular media home server software Plex has been working on a new version of the Plex Media Player (PMP) client software for Windows. Now that client software is free for anyone to use, eliminating the need for a premium Plex Pass subscription. Plex Media Player is just one part of the Plex puzzle for playing content across your devices. The idea is to have the media player software installed on the PC hooked up to your TV, while another PC or NAS device runs the central Plex server software in another room.

You can finally watch Netflix offline now – Netflix wants to make your trip back home this holiday season a little merrier. The company announced on Wednesday that select TV shows and movies were available for download on Android and iOS. In other words, Netflix now enables offline viewing. It’s not for everything, though. Most of Netflix’s original programming will be covered by the new feature, but some titles may not be due to licensing restrictions.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Tech on a Budget: 20 Gift Ideas Under $20 – Sometimes it pays to remember that you don’t always have to spend big to get a big thank you.

Inside the black box: Understanding AI decision-making – Artificial intelligence algorithms are increasingly influential in peoples’ lives, but their inner workings are often opaque. We examine why, and explore what’s being done about it.

Study: iPhone users may be less honest than Android users – Researchers claim your phone really does say a lot about who you are as person, and if you’re an iPhone owner what it says is not flattering.

How to Pick the Right Drone for You – Drones are among this year’s hottest holiday gifts. But there’s a big difference between the less expensive models — which are basically toys — and the more powerful and pricey units. So how do you pick the right model for your needs?

French man sentenced to two years in prison for visiting pro-ISIS websites – A man in France was sentenced to two years in prison this week for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites, even though there is no indication that he planned to stage a terrorist attack. The 32-year-old, whose name has not been released, was convicted by a court in the department of Ardèche on Tuesday under a new law that has drawn scorn from civil liberties groups. The man had been regularly consulting jihadist websites for two years, police said.

Five essential cybersecurity audiobooks – A curated list of cybersecurity audiobooks to help you better understand the history of computing, who hacks and why, and the future of cyber-defense.

The Golden Age of Texas Instruments Consumer Gadgets – Despite its military and industrial forays, TI’s consumer business perhaps had the most effect on the average person. Between 1972 and 1983, Texas Instruments released a string of products that revolutionized educational electronic toys, calculators, wristwatches, and to some extent, personal computers. In the slides ahead, we will explore this period in TI’s history.

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TI-99/4A (1981)

Magic mushrooms help cancer patients cope with fear and depression – Magic mushrooms, once associated mostly with Phish concerts, may lead to better end-of-life care for cancer patients. One dose of the active ingredient, psilocybin, can help terminal cancer patients experience less depression and anxiety even six months later. Two studies from New York University and Johns Hopkins University confirm a recent wave of research suggesting that hallucinogenic drugs are an important mental health tool.

FDA’s OK on trial opens possibility of prescription ecstasy in five years – The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the first large-scale, phase 3 clinical trial of ecstasy in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the New York Times reported. The regulatory green-light follows six smaller-scale trials that showed remarkable success using the drug. In fact, some of the 130 PTSD patients involved in those trials say ecstasy—or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)—saved them from the devastating impacts of PTSD after more than a decade of seeing no improvement with the other treatment options available.

Something to think about:

“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”

–    Frank Zappa   (1940 – 1993)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Game over: New US computer search law takes effect Thursday – “By sitting here and doing nothing, the Senate has given consent to this expansion of government hacking and surveillance.”

Those were the words Wednesday of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) as he failed to convince fellow senators to even hold a floor vote that could block changes to what is known as Rule 41 from taking effect Thursday.

Wyden was referencing an amended Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, which originated from an unelected advisory committee and was signed by the Supreme Court in April. By rule, it becomes effective December 1. The measure clarifies the law allowing judges to sign warrants that let authorities hack into computers outside a judge’s jurisdiction. The rule also gives federal judges the authority to issue a warrant to search multiple computers—even without knowing who is the targeted computer owner. Previously, some judges had practiced this, while others did not.

Wyden, a handful of fellow lawmakers, and civil rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation oppose Rule 41. They say that under the measure, a warrant would not have to say with any particularity whose computer the authorities are searching. Wyden said Congress should vote on whether to allow this instead of the measure taking effect without any congressional approval.

The Department of Justice, meanwhile, said Wyden’s fears are overblown.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 30, 2016

The Internet Archive is building a Canadian copy to protect itself from Trump;  $89 Linux laptop? Check out the new Pinebook;  Protect Yourself With a Free VPN Service;  How to watch Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services offline with PlayOn Cloud;  The best Facebook Messenger games to play right now;  Five To-Do apps that got a lot smarter this month;  The state of malware: 4 big takeaways from AV-TEST’s 2016 report;  7 best PC games to play over winter break – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Internet Archive is building a Canadian copy to protect itself from Trump – The Internet Archive, a digital library nonprofit that preserves billions of webpages for the historical record, is building a backup archive in Canada after the election of Donald Trump. Today, it began collecting donations for the Internet Archive of Canada, intended to create a copy of the archive outside the United States. “On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change,” writes founder Brewster Kahle. “It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change. For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a web that may face greater restrictions. It means serving patrons in a world in which government surveillance is not going away; indeed it looks like it will increase.”

Protect Yourself With a Free VPN Service – Very little in life is truly free, but as far as virtual private networks (or VPNs) are concerned, you can get quite a bit for nothing. Though you’ll likely have to pay to get all the features of the best VPN services, there are many free options available. If it’s the price tag that has prevented you from using a VPN, you should definitely try one of these services.

$89 Linux laptop? Check out the new Pinebook from Raspberry Pi rival Pine – The makers of a popular Raspberry Pi challenger, the $20 Pine A64, have returned with two sub-$100 Linux laptops, called Pinebooks. With an Allwinner quad-core ARM Cortex A53 64-bit processor, the A64 board could run Ubuntu, Debian, or Android Lollipop 5.1. The same processor is powering the 11-inch and 14-inch Pinebook notebooks, which at $89 and $99 respectively, could become some of the cheapest laptops available. The displays on both models have a 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution, and besides the A64’s ARM processor, the Pinebooks include the basics needed for a functional laptop, including display, keyboard, touchpad, storage, memory, and ports.

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The sub-$100 Pinebook runs on an ARM CPU and Linux. Image: Pine

Fedora 25 makes Linux easy enough for anyone to try – The Fedora community created one of the smoothest Linux Installation experiences ever.

How to watch Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services offline with PlayOn Cloud – The free PlayOn Cloud iOS app is a ‘streaming digital video recorder’ that lets you watch offline video from Netflix, Hulu and other services.

Facebook is bringing games like Pac-Man to Messenger and your News Feed – Facebook wants you playing games just about everywhere, and today the company is introducing a new initiative called Facebook Instant Games that it hopes will do just that. Instant Games is an HTML5 gaming platform that lets Facebook users play games on Messenger and in the Facebook News Feed, without the need to download anything. Instant Games are cross-platform, so they’ll work on both the web and mobile. The service launches today in a closed beta with a total of 17 games, including the likes of Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends.

The best Facebook Messenger games to play right now – Starting today you can play games inside Facebook Messenger and News Feed, but which should you try? There are old classics like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, as well as modern titles like EverWing and Words With Friends you can play by tapping the game controller icon in a Messenger thread. Click or scroll through to see our quick reviews and scores out of 10 for all 17 of the launch titles, plus our three favorite picks at the end.

Yahoo brings its Q&A site to mobile via a new app, Yahoo Answers Now – Yahoo has quietly launched a native mobile app for Yahoo Answers, one of the web’s largest Q&A sites which attracts over 3.1 million U.S. monthly visitors. The app, which was previously being tested under a different name, Yahoo Hive, was rebranded to Yahoo Answers Now at the beginning of the month. Like the web version, Yahoo Answers Now lets you view, ask, answer and track questions posed by the online community.

A new rating system will tell you if SD cards are capable of running mobile apps – The SD Association announced a new “app performance class” that will give buyers more knowledge about what to put inside their phones.

Five To-Do apps that got a lot smarter this month – The holiday season doesn’t just usher in the shopping season, it also signals the count down to a new year. Which means that, in addition to trying to work off all that holiday food, people will obsess over resolutions, plans, and goals. Yes, it’s the perfect time to be a todo list app or a productivity app. And as if warming up the engines for the holidays, a handful of such apps and services have stepped up their game to deliver just a bit more smartness to their list of features. Here are five of the best known todo apps that have just made your productivity even more productive.

How to download Windows Store apps with a local account – Microsoft didn’t want you to use the Windows Store without signing in with a Microsoft Account. That no longer appears to be the case.

SnipBack: The best audio recording Android app you’ve never heard of – There’s a new Android audio recorder in town, and it’s making its competition look bad. Find out why SnipBack should be your go-to mobile recording app.

AMD will sneak-peek its high-end Zen CPU in December, starting a new CPU war – AMD’s Zen chips are supposed to be as fast as Intel’s fastest, and they may also be a lot cheaper. If the rumors come true, Intel will finally have some competition in high-end gaming CPUs.

Why you should start using Google Keep right away – Artificial intelligence is transforming Google’s yellow sticky note app into an indispensable peripheral to your own mind.

It will soon be illegal to punish customers who criticize businesses online – Congress has passed a law protecting the right of US consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies. The bipartisan Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed by unanimous consent in the US Senate yesterday, a Senate Commerce Committee announcement said. The bill, introduced in 2014, was already approved by the House of Representatives and now awaits President Obama’s signature.

Cyber Monday hauls in $3.45B of online purchases, smashing the single-day sales record – As people continue to hunt for bargains online, we are more seeing more record-breaking marquee online sales days. Cyber Monday — coming the first day after the long Thanksgiving break — racked up $3.45 billion in sales in the U.S., pipping past the previous record of $3.34 billion spent on Black Friday just a few days earlier. Sales were up 12.1 percent compared to Cyber Monday a year earlier. Both figures come from Adobe, which said it tracked 23 billion anonymised visits to retail websites, covering 80 percent of all online transactions for the top 100 U.S. retailers. Earlier in the day, Adobe had said it expected $3.36 billion in sales.

Apple has a Calendar and Photos spam problem and it better fix it soon – There’s a nasty new kind of spam hitting Apple users across the Internet. We show you what’s happening, point you to some fixes, and call on Apple to make fixing this loophole a top priority.

Security:

Tech support scams evolve, borrow tricks from ransomware creators – If cold calling, fake alerts, and screen lockers aren’t enough, potential victims now face a new threat born from ransomware.

Firefox 0day in the wild is being used to attack Tor users – There’s a zero-day exploit in the wild that’s being used to execute malicious code on the computers of people using Tor and possibly other users of the Firefox browser, officials of the anonymity service confirmed Tuesday. According to security researchers who analyzed the code, it exploits a memory corruption vulnerability that allows malicious code to be executed on computers running Windows. The malicious payload it delivers, according to an independent researcher who goes by the Twitter handle @TheWack0lian, is almost identical to one that was used in 2013 to deanonymize people visiting a Tor-shielded child pornography site. The FBI ultimately acknowledged responsibility for the exploit, which was embedded in Web pages served by a service known as Freedom Hosting.

Newly discovered router flaw being hammered by in-the-wild attacks – Online criminals—at least some of them wielding the notorious Mirai malware that transforms Internet-of-things devices into powerful denial-of-service cannons—have begun exploiting a critical flaw that may be present in millions of home routers. Routers provided to German and Irish ISP customers for Deutsche Telekom and Eircom, respectively, have already been identified as being vulnerable, according to recently published reports from researchers tracking the attacks. The attacks exploit weaknesses found in routers made by Zyxel, Speedport, and possibly other manufacturers. The devices leave Internet port 7547 open to outside connections. The exploits use the opening to send commands based on the TR-069 and related TR-064 protocols, which ISPs use to remotely manage large fleets of hardware. According to this advisory published Monday morning by the SANS Internet Storm Center, honeypot servers posing as vulnerable routers are receiving exploits every five to 10 minutes.

The state of malware: 4 big takeaways from AV-TEST’s 2016 report – The new report details increased risks to Android and Apple products and the top 10 Windows malware programs of 2016. Here’s what your business needs to know to stay safe.

Web CCTV cams can be hijacked by single HTTP request – An insecure web server embedded in more than 35 models of internet-connected CCTV cameras leaves countless devices wide open to hijacking, it is claimed. The gadgets can be commandeered from the other side of the world with a single HTTP GET request before any password authentication checks take place, we’re told. If your camera is one of the at-risk devices, and it can be reached on the web, then it can be attacked, infected with malware and spied on. Network cameras typically use UPnP to drill through to the public internet automatically via your home router. Proof-of-concept code to exploit the vulnerable web server in the cameras can be found right here on GitHub.

Thousands of xHamster login credentials surface online – Members of the porn site xHamster should be changing their passwords today after a set of nearly 380,000 usernames, emails and poorly hashed passwords appeared online. The subscription-only breach notification site LeakBase has published the set of login credentials, which Motherboard reports were being traded online. It’s not clear exactly where the database originated, but it contains information for only a small subset of xHamster’s 12 million registered users. While xHamster doesn’t require viewers to register with the site, those who do can comment and make video playlists. Still, the leaked information has the potential to embarrass users — several of the accounts are linked to U.S. Army and other government email addresses. If xHamster’s subscribers reused their passwords on other sites, their accounts on those sites are at risk of compromise, as well.

Uber begins background collection of rider location data – Imagine you’re on your way to a therapy appointment in a downtown high-rise. You hail an Uber and enter a nearby coffee shop as your destination so you can grab a snack before the appointment. In the car, you scroll through Instagram and check your email. You get out, buy your coffee, and walk around the corner to your therapist’s office. If you installed the latest app update, Uber has been tracking your location the entire time.

Company News:

Samsung Electronics considers restructure following pressure from shareholders – Samsung Electronics has revealed that it is considering splitting the company into two following pressure from investors. Stakeholder Elliott Management last month criticized the Korean firm’s structure which it believes prioritizes the Lee family, which owns the Samsung Group, over its shareholders. In a statement released Monday, Samsung Electronics said it is assessing whether to implement a new corporate structure — which could see the establishment of a holding company — and the potential to list on additional stock exchanges worldwide. Samsung Electronics is working with “external advisors” to look over the possibilities, it said.

Report: Intel plans to make the Core i7 the brains behind self-driving cars – Sixteen years ago, a small low-power chip startup called Transmeta forced Intel to retool its desktop PC processors to meet the demands of notebooks. Today, Intel is adapting its PC processors to an entirely new market: self-driving cars. Intel has joined forces with Mobileye—the former brains behind Tesla Motors’ autopilot system—and auto parts maker Delphi, according to several reports.

Adblock Plus wins its 6th court case, brought by Der Spiegel – In the US, blocking online advertisements might land you in a heated debate. In Germany, you might have that debate in front of a judge. Eyeo GmbH, the company that makes Adblock Plus, has been through no fewer than six court cases by publishers who say blocking online ads violates German law. The ad-blocking company has now won all of its cases at the district level, and one case has been through an appeal. Other cases continue through the German appeals courts. The final lawsuit was brought by Germany’s best-known media brand, Spiegel Online, run by the same company that owns the newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Yesterday, Eyeo disclosed that its lawyers were contacted by telephone to be told that the case against them has been dismissed. The judge’s reasoning won’t be known until a written decision is released later this week.

Uber to European Court: We’re Not a Transportation Company – If the court rules that Uber is more than just an app, it will be subject to the same regulations as its taxi competitors.

Report: Google on pace to sell 3 million Pixels by the end of the year – A Morgan Stanley estimate says Google should sell another 5 to 6 million next year, though Samsung remains the smartphone sales king.

Games and Entertainment:

AT&T launches streaming TV service to compete with Vue, Sling – If you’re looking to cut cable TV, a new video streaming service from AT&T will be available starting Wednesday. DirecTV Now is a flexible pay-as-you-go streaming service that starts at US$35 per month. DirectTV’s conventional satellite service is the foundation, but the content will be streamed over the internet. Traditionally, users needed a two-year commitment and credit check to get DirecTV, but those requirements are not needed for the new service. The streaming service will work on the Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, as well as mobile devices with Android and iOS and PCs. There are four pricing bundles, AT&T said at a press event in New York City. Users will be able to get more than 60 channels for $35, more than 80 for $50, more than 100 for $60, and more than 120 for $70. As an introductory promotion, AT&T will offer 100 channels for $35.

7 best PC games to play over winter break – With winter break quickly approaching for many students in the US, a lot of you might be thinking about how you’re going to spend your time. More specifically, you might be wondering what games out there are worthy of a playthrough while you have some time to burn. We’ve already covered seven console games that are worth a look during your time away from school, but here are seven more for those of you playing on PC.

7 best console games to play over winter break – Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, some form of winter break is on the horizon for many students in the US. For high school students, winter break can last around two weeks, while colleges and universities usually break for three or four. If you’re in parts of the country that actually see snow and cold, spending any significant time outside may not be possible, so what’s a student with nothing but time to do? Play video games, of course – here are seven console-based games you should consider spending your winter break with.

The hottest games of winter – This time of year brings all kinds of reasons to stay in and play a video game, whether you prefer console or computer. As the nights grow longer, we’ll be firing up the hottest games of the season: Here are the four you won’t want to miss this month and next, three more coming at the top of 2017, and the holiday deals and discounts to watch for.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google Earth Timelapse update shows Earth from 1984-2016 – Google Earth Timelapse is a really awesome project that lets you turn back the clock on Planet Earth. In 2013, Google worked with the US Geological Survey (USGS), NASA, and TIME to compile a history of satellite imagery from 1984 to 2012. Today, Google updated the project with “four additional years of imagery, petabytes of new data, and a sharper view of the Earth from 1984 to 2016.” The new data isn’t just “new” data—Google also managed to compile better older images of Earth thanks to the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation Program. Google says it sifted through 5 million satellite images from five different satellites, taking the best of the “three quadrillion pixels” to create 33 images of Earth (one for each year). Thanks to the plethora of data and Google’s cloud-computing algorithms, you get all of this without any clouds blocking the view.

A Google Earth Timelapse of a community in Canada.

Why Fake News Is So Incredibly Effective – If you get your news from social media, as most Americans do, you are exposed to a daily dose of hoaxes, rumors, conspiracy theories and misleading news. When it’s all mixed in with reliable information from honest sources, the truth can be very hard to discern. In fact, my research team’s analysis of data from Columbia University’s Emergent rumor tracker suggests that this misinformation is just as likely to go viral as reliable information.

Homeopathic solutions now have to be labeled to disclose that there’s no science behind them – The FTC is playing whack-a-mole with pseudoscience again, and this time it’s targeting homeopathy. Their latest comments contend (PDF) that the standard disclaimer isn’t enough to dissuade consumers from buying this crap, so now not only do homeopathic products have to carry the standard disclaimer, they also have to say there’s no science behind them.

FDA approves large-scale trials of ecstasy to treat PTSD – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of MDMA in large-scale clinical trials, The New York Times reports, amid emerging evidence that the illegal party drug could be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Phase 3 research will involve at least 230 patients, the Times reports, and will be funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that advocates for the medical use of marijuana, LSD, and MDMA (also known as ecstasy). MAPS has already funded six Phase 2 studies of MDMA, involving 130 PTSD patients in total. In one study involving 19 PTSD patients, 56 percent said their symptoms declined in severity after receiving three doses of MDMA; by the end of the study, two-thirds didn’t meet the criteria for having PTSD.

Ex-Watergate investigators urge Obama to show leniency to Edward Snowden – President Obama has been urged to show leniency to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden by 15 intelligence experts, who were part of a 1970s congressional committee that investigated the CIA during the Watergate era.

Something to think about:

“When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also admit that some things are much more nearly certain than others.”

–       Bertrand Russell     (1872 – 1970)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

THE UK NOW WIELDS UNPRECEDENTED SURVEILLANCE POWERS — HERE’S WHAT IT MEANS – The UK is about to become one of the world’s foremost surveillance states, allowing its police and intelligence agencies to spy on its own people to a degree that is unprecedented for a democracy. The UN’s privacy chief has called the situation “worse than scary.” Edward Snowden says it’s simply “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.”

The legislation in question is called the Investigatory Powers Bill. It’s been cleared by politicians and granted royal assent on November 29th — officially becoming law. The bill will legalize the UK’s global surveillance program, which scoops up communications data from around the world, but it will also introduce new domestic powers, including a government database that stores the web history of every citizen in the country. UK spies will be empowered to hack individuals, internet infrastructure, and even whole towns — if the government deems it necessary.

Although the UK’s opposition Labour Party originally put forward strong objections to the bill, these never turned into real opposition. The combination of a civil war between different factions in Labour and the UK’s shock decision to leave the European Union means the bill was never given politicians’ — or the country’s — full attention. Instead, it will likely inspire similar surveillance laws in other countries. After all, if the UK can do it, why shouldn’t everyone else? And there will be no moderating influence from the US, where the country’s mostly intact surveillance apparatus will soon be handed over to president-elect Donald Trump.

With this global tide of surveillance rising, it’s worth taking a closer look at what exactly is happening in the UK. Here’s our overview of what the Investigatory Powers Bill entails:

Senators plan last-ditch push to curb U.S. law enforcement’s hacking power – Unless Congress takes 11th-hour action, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will gain new authority this week to hack into remote computers during criminal investigations.

Proposed changes to Rule 41, the search and seizure provision in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, would give U.S. law enforcement agencies the authority to cross jurisdictional lines and hack computers anywhere in the world during criminal investigations.

The rules, in most cases, now prohibit federal judges from issuing a search warrant outside their jurisdictions. The changes, approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in April at the request of the Department of Justice, go into effect on Thursday unless Congress moves to reverse them.

Lawmakers opposed to the changes are planning a last-minute push to roll them back. Senators will attempt to bring the issue to a vote on Wednesday, said a spokesman for Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.

Wyden and four other senators are sponsors of the Stop Mass Hacking Act, a bill to reverse the proposed changes. A similar bill in the House of Representatives has 12 co-sponsors. Two other bills, introduced earlier this month, would delay the proposed changes to give Congress more time to debate them.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – November 25, 2016

Ten desktop PCs that fit in your pocket;  The Best Media Streaming Devices of 2016;  The Ultimate Apple MacBook Buyer’s Guide;  8 Best Health or Fitness Apps for Android and iOS;  22 Tips Every Amazon Addict Should Know;  Telegram launches Telegraph, an anonymous blogging platform;  Hackers Are Using MailChimp to Spread Malware;  Are iPhone owners really less honest than Android users?  The best graphics cards for PC gaming;  Just How Big Has the Internet Become? – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Buying a PC on Black Friday? Here are five trends to watch out for – Based on this year’s ads, things are a little different than in the past if you’re looking to purchase a laptop, desktop, or tablet. Here’s how.

The Ultimate Apple MacBook Buyer’s Guide – Apple recently added three new MacBook Pros to its lineup, making the company’s notebook selection more diverse than ever. There’s the feature-packed new Pros, the still-worthwhile old Pros, the critic-favorite MacBook Air, and the ultra-portable 12-inch MacBook. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro is increasingly a worthy laptop replacement. So which MacBook is right for you? Here’s a breakdown of how Apple’s laptops compare that can help you make a decision, whether you’re buying for yourself or a loved one:

Ten desktop PCs that fit in your pocket – Today it’s not just phones you can slip in your pocket, it’s full desktop PCs. These portable desktops range from stick PCs to credit card-sized single board computers, such as the bestselling Raspberry Pi. Here are your go to gadgets if you want a full desktop machine you can take with you.

5 burning questions about AMD’s next-gen Zen processors – AMD’s Zen chip is just around the corner; it’ll first come to gaming systems any day now. There’s a lot of excitement about Zen, which AMD believes is its most important chip this decade.

The Best Media Streaming Devices of 2016 – We pit the highest-rated media-streaming devices against one another to find out which one is your best bet for streaming TV, movies, music, and more to your television.

22 Tips Every Amazon Addict Should Know – Here’s how to best take advantage of Amazon’s deals, shipping, payments, and more.

Check out our Thanksgiving tech support survival guide (2016 edition) – Get some down time over Thanksgiving (and the holiday season as a whole) by preparing in advance for the inevitable tech support requests.

8 Best Health or Fitness Apps for Android and iOS – Ever wondered why there is usually a surge of interest and sales in health-related products and apps around February. By now it’s probably obvious that it’s usually a guilt-induced urge brought about by months of binging on holiday treats. Of course, staying healthy is a year-round commitment and you don’t have to wait for next year to get started. Heck, you don’t even have to enroll in a gym. To help get the ball rolling, here are 8 apps, available on both Android and iOS that are not just meant to keep you healthy, they can be pretty fun too.

How to see Wi-Fi passwords on an Android phone – What do you do when all you see is a sea of asterisks? (Hint: Rooting required.)

How to Customize Your Default Apps in Windows 10 – You can control which particular app or browser launches when you open a program in Windows 10. Here’s how.

Are iPhone owners really less honest than Android users? That’s what this study says – Researchers claim your phone really does say a lot about who you are as person, and if you’re an iPhone owner what it says is not flattering.

How to get more from Windows Defender by using its command-line tool – Windows Defender’s command-line utility lets you automate basic tasks and handle certain advanced operations. Here’s a look at how to use the tool and examples of ways it can come in handy.

Telegram launches Telegraph, an anonymous blogging platform – Telegram now has a blogging platform to go along with its popular messaging app. It’s called Telegraph and, according to VentureBeat, offers fast publishing and anonymous posting — without requiring you to register an account or sign in through social media. The app’s user interface looks very similar to Medium and allows for easy embeds. You can also embed images from your computer by clicking on the camera button. In comparison to Medium, the loading time for embeds is relatively fast. Publication is instantaneous upon hitting “publish.” Posts are shareable on social media platforms but are designed to work best on Telegram’s new Instant View layout, which works similarly to Facebook’s Instant Articles feature.

SD Association unveils App Performance Class SD cards – The SD Association has announced a new type of memory card that users of smartphones and tablets that need more space for their favorite apps will want to know about. The new App Performance Class is part of SD Specification 5.1 and establishes technical and market requirements to run and store apps on SD cards. The specification still supports storage of images, video, music, documents, and other data as well.

Vivaldi web browser can directly control Philips Hue bulbs – Philips Hue bulbs can already be controlled through various means and there are most likely web apps that can accomplish that as well. Vivaldi, however, prides itself for having that feature built right into the browser, no add-ons needed. As long as the bulb and the browser use the same Wi-Fi network, a bridge between the two can be made.

Google Cast branding dropped in favor of Chromecast built-in – The Google Cast brand hasn’t been around that long, but Google is already phasing it out. The branding, which marked speakers and other things compatible with Google’s casting technology, will disappear and be replaced with the ‘Chromecast built-in’ designation. The company’s Google Cast website already mentions this change, though it seems to be happening slowly rather than in one big sweep.

New federal guidelines seek to lock out apps on drivers’ phones – “Distracted driving” has been getting more attention because the government calculates that it is prevalent and is causing more car crashes. Today, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration published guidelines calling on smartphone makers to create a “Driving Mode” that shuts down app-use while a car is in motion. The 96-page voluntary guidelines (PDF), intended to reduce “driver distraction,” also call for cars to be more easily “paired” with mobile devices so that drivers can access them through an in-vehicle interface.

Windows 10 snooping: Microsoft gets more time to tackle ‘excessive’ data collection – Microsoft has been granted more time to change how Windows 10 collects data about users in order to comply with the French data protection act.

Security:

Make companies pay full cost of breaches to restore trust in the internet, says ISOC – Fake news, online banking thefts and data breaches: It’s no wonder that trust in the internet is at an all-time low. But don’t worry: The Internet Society has a five-step plan for restoring faith in the network of networks.

Google warns journalists and professors: Your account is under attack – Google is warning prominent journalists and professors that nation-sponsored hackers have recently targeted their accounts, according to reports delivered in the past 24 hours over social media. The people reportedly receiving the warnings include Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Stanford University professor and former US diplomat Michael McFaul, GQ correspondent Keith Olbermann, and according to this tweet, Politico, Highline, and Foreign Policy contributor/columnist Julia Ioffe; New York Magazine reporter Jonathan Chait; and Atlantic magazine writer Jon Lovett. Reports of others receiving the warnings are here and here. Many of the reports included banners that Google displayed when account holders logged in. Ars spoke to someone who works for a well-known security company who also produced an image of a warning he received. The person said he was aware of a fellow security-industry professional receiving the same warning.

Madison Square Garden Suffered Year-Long Credit Card Breach – The Madison Square Garden Company this week disclosed a massive credit card breach at four of its New York venues. Payment cards used to purchase merchandise, food, and drinks between Nov. 9, 2015 and Oct. 24, 2016 at Madison Square Garden, the Theater at MSG, Radio City Music Hall, or Beacon Theater—as well as Chicago Theater in Illinois—may have been affected. That means, for example, anyone who picked out a Billy Joel T-shirt or ordered popcorn and a beer during the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular could be a victim of identity theft.

US Navy warns 134,000 sailors of data breach after HPE laptop is compromised – A data breach at the US Navy has exposed the social security numbers and names of more than 130,000 current and former sailors, officials confirmed late on Wednesday—adding that “unknown individuals” had accessed the sensitive information. Hewlett Packard Enterprise told the US Navy that one of its laptops operated by a contractor had been “compromised,” however it didn’t provide any further information about how the breach—affecting 134,386 sailors—had occurred.

Hackers Are Using MailChimp to Spread Malware – You probably know MailChimp either as an email newsletter service, or the company that seems to have adverts on every single podcast you’ve ever listened to. Hackers recently jumped on that popularity, and managed to send out emails containing malicious links to subscribers of various different companies. The incident shows that hackers will likely use whatever distribution channels they can in an attempt to spread their malware and turn a profit.

Security researchers can turn headphones into microphones – Security researchers at Israel’s Ben Gurion University have created a proof-of-concept exploit that lets them turn headphones into microphones to secretly record conversations. The PoC, called “Speake(a)r,” first turned headphones connected to a PC into microphones and then tested the quality of sound recorded by a microphone vs. headphones on a target PC. In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. The hack is fairly ingenious. It essentially “retasks” the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in.

Tech Giants: IoT Security Is Terrible, Here’s How to Fix It – A report calls for future Internet of Things devices to have stronger encryption and allow less Internet access by default.

Company News:

Microsoft starts shipping Surface Studio orders early, offers dedicated support line – Microsoft has started shipping some Surface Studio orders a little early. The software giant originally planned to ship units to customers in mid-December, but Microsoft has been emailing the first people to preorder the $3,000 device, letting them know the Studio will arrive this week. Microsoft is still accepting “preorders” for the Surface Studio, but new devices won’t ship until “early 2017.”

Amazon makes good on its promise to delete “incentivized” reviews – Amazon is making good on its promise to ban “incentivized” reviews from its website, according to a new analysis of over 32,000 products and around 65 million reviews. The ban was meant to address the growing problem of less trustworthy reviews that had been plaguing the retailer’s site, leading to products with higher ratings than they would otherwise deserve. Incentivized reviews are those where the vendor offers free or discounted products to reviewers, in exchange for recipients writing their “honest opinion” of the item in an Amazon review. However, data has shown that these reviewers tend to write more positive reviews overall, with products earning an average of 4.74 stars out of five, compared with an average rating of 4.36 for non-incentivized reviews.

Facebook slapped with racial discrimination suit – Facebook was struck with a racial discrimination lawsuit after two black employees at the social network’s North Carolina data center alleged the company didn’t respond promptly to repeated complaints of harassment. The suit, filed Tuesday in US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges Facebook allowed “retaliation against the employees reporting discrimination to fester and continue” at the facility despite their continued complaints. Robert Baron Duffy, a former employee, and Robert Louis Gary, a current employee, allege a facility manager used racial slurs when referring to black employees. They also say they were paid less than white colleagues.

Games and Entertainment:

The best graphics cards for PC gaming – In the market for a new video card? These are the best graphics cards that PC gamers can buy today.

2016 is saved as Microsoft Solitaire hits iOS and Android – Microsoft is bringing one of its most popular products to iOS and Android, and if you needed the perfect distraction from Trump talk at the Thanksgiving dinner table, this is it. The Microsoft Solitaire Collection brings some of the mainstays of Windows distraction from the PC to the smartphones most of us have in our pockets. Best of all, it’s a free download.

Rocket League Game of the Year Edition drives onto PS4 and PC – If you’ve yet to play Rocket League, you may want to have a look at the Game of the Year Edition, which has arrived on PC and PlayStation 4. Interestingly enough, Xbox One isn’t included in this launch, despite the fact that there’s an Xbox version of Rocket League. Perhaps such a release is coming at some point in the future, but for now, Xbox One owners are being left out in the cold.

Minecraft introduces flying Elytras, cartoon textures – Holiday season isn’t just shopping season. It’s also gaming season. Which is why game makers usually go all out during this time to ensnare bored or willing victims into their choice of escape from reality. And nothing says “escape from reality” more than Minecraft. Appropriately, Mojang has just announced some holiday treats for everyone, both on consoles and mobile, though not everyone is getting the exact same gifts. Console gamers will have adventures and misadventures in the air, while those on mobile can make goofy faces instead.

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Titanfall 2 free DLC arrives starting November 30 – Gamers who preordered Titanfall 2 will be able to download the game’s first free DLC starting on November 30. If you didn’t preorder the game, you’ll still get access to the DLC, but you’ll have to wait until December 3 to get it. Once you do, though, you’ll get access to the Angel City map from Titanfall 1, perhaps the most anticipated part of the DLC, as well as a new pistol and more.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Just How Big Has the Internet Become? – Wrap your mind around this: the average website today is now roughly 2.3MB—the size of the original Doom PC game, as noted in a study released in April by software engineer Ronan Cremi, CTO of DeviceAtlas. And the overall page size is “increasing inexorably,” Cremin stated in his report. Now consider the fact there are over 1 billion of these websites and counting clogging up the net, an increase of over 1,000 percent in the last decade. In other words, websites are getting bigger and bigger, and at the same time, more and more of them are being launched. But when you take into account all of these websites and their text, photos, animated ads, videos, and everything else that goes into them, just how big is the internet as a whole? And does it really matter?

Facebook is unlikely to succeed in China, even if it compromises on free speech – Facebook may have laid some of the early groundwork for a potential entry into China, but the U.S. social network’s chances of making a dent in the world’s most populous country are remote.

Google WiFi mesh networking crushes the competition in new test – Mesh networking is the future, and Google thinks it has a winner with Google WiFi. It’s backed up by a new test showing Google WiFi putting the competition to shame.

These 4 Things Kill Relationships – John Gottman can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine, with 91% accuracy, whether they’ll divorce. Gottman’s researched marriage for over 40 years and couples that attend his workshops have half the relapse rate that standard therapy provides. How can he tell who will split up? There are a number of indicators but at the core of Gottman’s research are ” The Four Horsemen.” These are the four things that indicate a marriage apocalypse is on its way:

Australia: Census reports highlight government IT incompetence – Inquiries by the Australian Senate and the PM’s special advisor on cybersecurity highlight ‘significant and obvious oversights’ by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which ‘couldn’t handle a predictable problem’.

The Small Business Holiday Season Survival Guide – Experts from Balboa Capital explain how small to midsize businesses (SMBs) can prepare for and capitalize on the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Reddit CEO admits he secretly edited comments from Donald Trump supporters – Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has admitted that he modified comments about him left on the site from supporters of Donald Trump. Huffman said he changed mentions of him in some of the messages inside the site’s largest forum for the President-elect, but not the messages themselves. But, in doing so, he dredges up past concerns that Reddit remains unable to work with its community.

Something to think about:

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

–       Franklin D. Roosevelt    (1882 – 1945)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tweets aren’t tools for surveillance: Twitter pushes back against law enforcement – Just because your tweets are public, doesn’t mean that law enforcement can use them to track your activity, Twitter clarified in a blog post on Tuesday. The post came after the company received reports of the service being used for surveillance on its users, the post said.

“As a company, our commitment to social justice is core to our mission and well established,” the post said. “And our policies in this area are long-standing. Using Twitter’s Public APIs or data products to track or profile protesters and activists is absolutely unacceptable and prohibited.”

Twitter’s public API makes tweets and some of their data available to developers worldwide, to be used in a variety of applications. In the post, the company said that the APIs were built using “content that people choose to share publicly,” and noted how that can be leveraged to help respond to natural disasters.

UK Cops Are Trying to Remove Spy Gear Records from the Web – UK police forces have long shrouded their use of IMSI catchers in extreme secrecy. In October, a report in the Bristol Cable uncovered new evidence that several forces had bought such technology, which UK police refer to as “covert communications data capture,” or CCDC.

But, that doesn’t mean police forces are going to break with tradition: some agencies have tried to remove evidence of their spending on IMSI catchers from the web, even though the publication of some of these documents is supposed to provide more transparency into the police and how it uses public funds.

“Their insistence on secrecy is in stark contrast to shallow political promises around accountability. There is no question that these devices raise serious data protection issues for the thousands of innocent people who have their personal data collected by these mass surveillance systems,” Richard Tynan, a technologist from activist group Privacy International, told Motherboard in an email.

Tynan added that UK police force’s stance on IMSI catchers “reveals their contempt for transparency.”

Germany is worried about fake news and bots ahead of election – Angela Merkel this week warned that fake news and bots may influence Germany’s national elections next year, days after she announced plans to seek a fourth term as the country’s chancellor. In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, Merkel said that fake news and bots have “manipulated” public opinion online, adding that lawmakers must “confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it,” the AFP reports.

“Something has changed — as globalization has marched on, [political] debate is taking place in a completely new media environment. Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago,” Merkel said. “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls — things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms and we have to learn to deal with them.”

UK ISPs may be forced to block porn sites that snub age checks, sex acts face ban – Late on Wednesday, the government’s planned amendment to the Digital Economy Bill—which, if unopposed by parliament, will force ISPs to block porn sites that refuse to provide adequate age verification mechanisms—was published online. The tabled tweak to the draft legislation states that, where ISPs fail to act, they will be found guilty of an offence and hit with a fine.

As part of its mission creep, the government is also pushing for the BBFC regulator to have the power to tell ISPs to block content that isn’t pornographic. It states:

The steps that may be specified or arrangements that may be put in place under subsection (2) (c) include steps or arrangements that will or may also have the effect of preventing persons in the United Kingdom from being able to access material other than the offending material using the service provided by the Internet service provider.

However, the government’s amendment doesn’t nail down what it defines as “other material”—making it arguably a sweeping demand for all sorts of content to be censored.

Meanwhile, campaigners are increasingly vexed by the government’s decision to appoint the BBFC to police online porn blockades where sites fail to bring in age checker systems—even though the regulator is yet to explicitly state what fruity online material would be placed on its banned list.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 23, 2016

20 tips and tricks that make Windows 10 more tolerable;  How to watch Thanksgiving football online;  3 security reports about shopping online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday;  The best video-streaming apps for Apple TV, from A to Z;  How to cheaply and easily improve Windows 10 performance;  How to make home IoT more secure: Assume the worst;  Windows 10 quick tips: Get the most out of Cortana;  5 things to know about fake news on Facebook, Google;  The most useful iOS travel apps for business professionals;  How to pick out the best high-end TVs for the buck this Black Friday – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to watch Thanksgiving football online – If you are unable to watch the TV broadcasts of the three NFL games, you have streaming options. Each one is a bit different, however, since each game is on a different network.

3 security reports about shopping online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday – Researchers list the most and least secure online retailers, warn about vulnerabilities in WordPress e-commerce plugins and warn that crooks are cashing in on top store brands and “Black Friday” to scam consumers.

How to make home IoT more secure: Assume the worst – A report by the internet advisory group BITAG on Tuesday identified common security problems in home IoT products and recommended steps vendors should take from now on.

20 tips and tricks that make Windows 10 more tolerable – No matter who you are and where you stand on the raging Windows 10 issues, I bet there are some things you love about your new operating system, along with other things you wish were better, had stayed the same, or simply went away. In this slideshow, I take you through the parts of Win10 that irk me the most, giving you quick tips on how to set things right … or at least, right-er.

How to cheaply and easily improve Windows 10 performance – Windows 10 performance on older PCs can be cheaply and easily improved through the use of Windows’ ReadyBoost feature and a spare USB flash drive or SD card.

Windows 10 quick tips: Get the most out of Cortana – Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana is one of the major additions to Windows 10 — and it’s a winner. Turn it on and Cortana alerts you to upcoming meetings; searches your PC and the Web; tells you about the weather, news and sports; and a lot more. To help you get the most out of Cortana, I’ve put together some of my favorite tips for using it — including using Cortana to manage your Google Calendar, identify the music you’re listening to and track packages and flights.

Windows 10 tip: Keep your Microsoft account secure with 2-factor authentication – Signing in to Windows 10 with a Microsoft account is convenient, unless your password is stolen or phished. Protect yourself by turning on additional security features.

Google Maps will now tell you how busy a place is in real time – Other data-driven tricks include projections about how long people stay at a place and more detailed hours from certain venues.

The most useful iOS travel apps for business professionals – Making travel arrangements can be a hassle, and that’s before you even start on your trip. These iOS and watchOS apps will make your life much easier while traveling.

How to use Skype without an account – Skype has always required an account before you could use it. Microsoft is changing that with a new feature for Skype for Web.

5 things to know about fake news on Facebook, Google – With presidential election signs coming down from front lawns and voters watching protests on the news, many are wondering if fake news stories on Facebook and Google contributed to Donald Trump’s winning the presidency. And that raises the question of what Google and Facebook plan to do about it.

New Google Sites now ready to build websites for everyone – Building websites is as much an art as it is (computer) science. And, let’s face it, not everyone has what it takes to craft beautiful, not to mention engaging, websites, nor do we always have a web designer on call. Don’t worry, though, because Google has you covered, again. After a period of dormancy, the Google Sites website builder is jumping back into action, newer, fresher, and more responsive than ever before, to help you and your team make websites that are just as fresh and responsive.

Secure messaging app Telegram now offers its own anonymous blogging platform – Telegram, the security-focused messaging app, has launched its own take on blogging platforms. If you’re among Telegram 100 million-plus active users then the new Telegraph service will be much as you’d expect. It’s minimalist and anonymous — you can add your name if you wish — with support for markdown, in-line photos and other embeds as is standard. That makes Telegraph an interesting option for posting short notes or anonymized content online. I took it for a spin — just a few pics — and it was very easy to use.

Instagram launches disappearing Live video and messages – Instagram is combining the best of Snapchat and Periscope to help you get comfortable on camera. Rather than overlap with Facebook Live and Messenger, Instagram is putting an ephemeral spin on video streaming and private messaging. Today, two big new features begin rolling out to Instagram Stories on iOS and Android over the next few weeks. Instagram Live lets you broadcast video to your followers in real-time, but they can only watch while you’re still streaming. No replays. But you will be able to browse an algorithmically curated Explore page of the best Instagram Live videos happening right now.

Disney launches free Moana-themed coding tutorials – As part of Code.org’s Hour of Code program, Disney is releasing “Moana: Wayfinding with Code,” a free online tutorial to teach kids the basics of computer science. The tutorial features characters from Moana, Disney’s upcoming animated feature film. In the past, the company has created coding tutorials featuring characters from Frozen and Star Wars. Through those sessions, Disney taught nearly 40 million kids the basics of computer programming. Disney says it hopes to reach even more this time around.

10 gizmos and gifts to encourage kids to learn to code – The learn-to-code space has no shortage of ideas to inspire young minds and help them get to grips with programming logic. We’ve rounded up some of the best stuff we’ve seen recently, from toys which aim to encourage learning via play, to connected hardware kits focused on inventing and project-making, to gamified software learning environments for those happy to gift a subscription. Prices range from a few dollars for an in-app purchase to around $200 for fancier gadgets. Whether you’re buying a gift for a three year old or a tricky teen you’ll find something to consider here.

Yeehaw is a 3D printer ideal for kids (priced that way, too) – Yeehaw is a 3D printer made specifically with kids in mind – made to be safe, simple to use, and inexpensive. This printer was built to allow kids to print their own toys, and tools, and all manner of tiny oddities. It does so with an always-expanding library of 3D objects available for download as well as an app that allows kids to create 3D objects with big pixels in 3D space.

Done With Tinder? Try ‘Sindr,’ the Vatican’s New Confession Finder App – For those Catholics itching to be absolved, a Scottish Archbishop may have just revolutionized the search for a confessional — with a new smartphone and tablet app launched at the Vatican on Tuesday. The Catholic app, which has inevitably been dubbed “Sindr” by some media and online commentators, is expected to go live in early 2017, according to Vatican Radio.

How to pick out the best high-end TVs for the buck this Black Friday – A few months ago. I bought a new home with something I’d always wanted: A room big enough for a home theater. So, I went looking for the best HDTV I could find and afford. Here’s what I found on my journey. Now, I grew up with a soldiering iron in my hand in my dad’s TV repair shop. I make my living from knowing how computers work, but I started in electronics with television. When it comes to TVs, I know what I’m looking for. Here are the factors I use in determining what TV to buy.

Security:

Don’t let yourself be targeted by cybercriminals: Here are 6 tips for safe holiday shopping – Online shopping is easy and convenient, and more people are doing it than ever before. The rise in e-commerce also gives cybercriminals more opportunities to rob you blind. Here’s how to stay safe.

Tor phone is antidote to Google “hostility” over Android, says developer – The Tor Project recently announced the release of its prototype for a Tor-enabled smartphone—an Android phone beefed up with privacy and security in mind, and intended as equal parts opsec kung fu and a gauntlet to Google. To protect user privacy, the prototype runs OrWall, the Android firewall that routes traffic over Tor, and blocks all other traffic. Users can punch a hole through the firewall for voice traffic, for instance, to enable Signal. The prototype only works on Google Nexus and Pixel hardware, as these are the only Android device lines, Perry wrote, that “support Verified Boot with user-controlled keys.” While strong Linux geekcraft is required to install and maintain the prototype, Perry stressed that the phone is also aimed at provoking discussion about what he described as “Google’s increasing hostility towards Android as a fully Open Source platform.”

Elegant 0-day unicorn underscores “serious concerns” about Linux security – Recently released exploit code makes people running fully patched versions of Fedora and other Linux distributions vulnerable to drive-by attacks that can install keyloggers, backdoors, and other types of malware, a security researcher says.

Would You Sacrifice Sex for Online Security? – To what lengths would you go to ensure online privacy? According to a new survey, about 40 percent of Americans would refrain from sex and give up their favorite food to avoid cybersecurity headaches. Password management firm Dashlane last week reported that nearly four in 10 people would sacrifice lovemaking for a year if in return they could stop worrying about being hacked, identity theft, or losing access to one or more of their online accounts. Such drastic measures, however, are not necessary if simple password rules are followed—which, based on a continued stream of successful attacks, we clearly aren’t all doing.

Company News:

Office Depot caught claiming out-of-box PCs showed “symptoms of malware” – Office Depot and its sister retailer OfficeMax have stopped using a technically dubious piece of malware-scanning software after two news services caught the stores recommending costly fixes for PC infections that didn’t exist. According to an investigation conducted by KIRO TV News, four out of six stores in Seattle and Portland, Oregon claimed that out-of-the-box PCs showed “symptoms of malware” that required as much as $180 for repairs and protection. The computers, according to the report, had never been connected to the Internet and were diagnosed as free of malware by security firm IOActive.

Samsung raided for second time over presidential scandal – Samsung has been raided for the second time over allegations that it bribed the president’s close contact to get approval over the controversial merger of its two key affiliates.

Oracle to buy cloud infrastructure provider Dyn – Oracle plans to acquire internet performance and DNS provider Dyn in an effort to pump up its cloud-based offerings and challenge infrastructure and platform service leaders like Amazon and Microsoft. Dyn, in the news last month when it was targeted in a massive distributed denial-of-service attack, operates a global network that makes 40 billion traffic optimization decisions each day for more than 3,500 enterprise customers, including Netflix and Twitter.

Apple dumps wireless router development, will exit the market – Apple has manufactured its own line of AirPort cards and routers for 17 years, dating back to the introduction of the original AirPort Base Station in 1999. Now, the company is apparently planning to kill its support for the AirPort division, not long after announcing it would also exit the display markets. It’s been more than three years since Apple announced a new base station (its last update, in 2013, added support for the 802.11ac standard), so this move isn’t entirely surprising — but it’s also a further sign that Apple is consolidating its product lines.

Google acquires AWS training vendor Qwiklabs – Google is acquiring Qwiklabs, a company that helps people learn how to use public cloud services to run applications without operating a data center. It’s a helpful move for Google, which is trying to expand the use of its cloud platform and stands to gain when developers and IT professionals get a handle on making applications run in the cloud. The company will create tools to help get people up to speed on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and G Suite productivity service, said Jason Martin, the director of professional services for Google Cloud, in a blog post.

The cloud price war continues: Amazon cuts its cloud storage prices, again – Amazon Web Services (AWS) is cutting the price of its S3 cloud storage service and Glacier cloud archive service, as well as adding new options for companies wanting to retrieve data from Glacier. AWS said it is cutting the per-gigabyte price of its S3 Standard Storage in most AWS regions as of 1 December, and reducing it down to three pricing tiers. It is also cutting the price of Glacier storage in most AWS regions.

Games and Entertainment:

The best video-streaming apps for Apple TV, from A to Z – The App Store might have opened it up to a wide variety of uses, but the Apple TV will always be, first and foremost, a media streamer. But while streaming on Apple TV is easier than ever thanks to its built-in Siri search capabilities and universal sign-in, finding things to watch requires a little legwork. Apple isn’t nearly as helpful with the channel lineup as it once was, and with thousands of apps available, you have to know where to look to find the best ones. So whether you’re an Apple TV newcomer or a veteran from the Front Row days, our list of the 50 best streaming apps will fill your schedule with more must-see than your Apple TV can handle.

The 5 best Black Friday gaming sales of 2016 – Black Friday is quickly approaching, and that usually means good things for folks looking to pick up some video games. Whether you’re looking for video games or consoles, a lot of stores will have plenty of offers to take advantage of. With so many places vying for your time on Black Friday, where do you stand the best chance at getting a good deal? Here are some of the more attractive locations for gamers on Black Friday.

Ultimate Xbox One holiday gift guide – There’s new Xbox One hardware on store shelves, cross-platform play is going strong, and the Xbox 360 backwards compatible catalog continues to grow. And if nothing else, 4K UHD TV owners have a very good reason to grab a new console this holiday season.

Here’s what you’ll need to run Windows 10 VR headsets next year – Excited about forthcoming Windows 10 VR support? You should be, since it’s going to open up who gets access to virtual reality considerably, thanks to third-party headsets from established OEM partners starting at just $299. Minimum PC specs are now available, too – and The Verge points out they aren’t too demanding, which is great news. The into comes via a ‘Windows Holographic First Run’ tester application that appears in pre-release builds of Windows 10 aimed at testers, and reveals minimum requirements for running Microsoft’s virtual computing environment that include 4GB of system RAM, at least one USB 3.0 port, a graphics card that can support DirectX 12 (not a steep bar) and at least 4 CPU cores that include dual-core processors with hyperthreading capability.

Titanfall 2’s Upcoming Free Map is a Blast From the Past – Titanfall 2 may not be doing great sales-wise but it has something that could help it in the long run: free DLC. We’ve known about the game’s free DLC model for some time but didn’t know when it would arrive or what it would contain. Today, Respawn Entertainment has at last outlined what the first downloadable content will be. The first DLC will be called Angel City’s Most Wanted, which has an all-new map, weapons, Titan kits, and more. The Angel City map is new to Titanfall 2 but not to the series since it appeared in the original Titanfall. Those who pre-ordered the game will have access to the map on November 30 while everyone else will get it on December 3.

Oculus Rift gets Xbox One game streaming on December 12th – Microsoft originally announced its plans to stream Xbox One games to the Oculus Rift back in June, 2015. While it’s taken nearly 18 months to arrive, the software giant is planning to allow Oculus Rift owners to play Xbox One games on December 12th. Rift owners will be able to download a free Xbox One streaming app from the Oculus Store, and any console output will be streamed directly to the Rift headset. Microsoft is also supporting the Rift natively in Windows 10, and the company continues to ship its wireless controllers with the Rift as part of its partnership.

Pokemon Sun and Moon become second-largest 3DS launch in Japan – It would seem that Pokemon Sun and Moon’s lineup of legendaries, vast number of pre-launch trailers, glowing reviews, and possibly even price have turned the games into a smashing success in Japan. Nintendo has announced that the games sold a combined 1.9 million copies in its home territory during their first weekend of availability. Sales numbers for North America aren’t available at the moment, while the games aren’t even available in Europe yet – something that’s set to change tomorrow.

Off Topic (Sort of):

#WeAreNotWaiting: Diabetics are hacking their health, because traditional systems have failed them – Diabetics have been waiting for years for better technology to manage their condition. Some got tired of waiting and hacked together an open source hardware and software solution. This is their story.

Eating Cheese Could Help You Live Longer – A new study from Nature Science suggests that consuming aged cheeses with the compound spermidine seems to extend the lifespan of mammals, based on tests with rodents. Rodents and cheese. Of course. It makes too much sense. But rats and mice weren’t the only test subjects to be examined. Italians were also queried on how much cheese they eat and their resulting health changes were studied accordingly. Both the risk of high blood pressure and heart failure seemed to go down as cheese intake went up.

Most students can’t tell the difference between sponsored content and real news – Most students can’t tell the difference between real news articles and sponsored content, according to a study from Stanford University, raising concerns over how young people consume online media. According to the study, 82 percent of students could not distinguish between a sponsored post and an actual news article on the same website. Nearly 70 percent of middle schoolers thought they had no reason to distrust a sponsored finance article written by the CEO of a bank, and many students evaluate the trustworthiness of tweets based on their level of detail and the size of attached photos, according to the Journal.

More than half the world’s people still off the Internet – Less than half of the world’s population still isn’t using the Internet, although the numbers are improving, according to a United Nations report. A report released this week by the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) found that 47.1% of the population is online, an increase from 2015’s figure of 43%. The spread of mobile networks around the globe has played an important role in increasing Internet connectivity, the report said. Mobile-broadband networks cover 84% of the world’s population this year, but the number of users, at 47.1%, is well below those who have access.

Fix your stuff with this $20 essential electronics toolkit from iFixit – This $20 toolkit from iFixit allows you crack open and take a stab at repairing most electronic devices.

Something to think about:

“This above all: to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day; Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

–       William Shakespeare     (1564 – 1616), ‘Hamlet,’ Act I, Scene iii

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FYI: The FBI is being awfully evasive about its fresh cyber-spy powers – Senior US senators have expressed concern that the FBI is not being clear about how it intends to use its enhanced powers to spy on American citizens.

Those are the spying powers granted by Congressional inaction over an update to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. These changes will kick in on December 1 unless they are somehow stopped, and it’s highly unlikely they will be challenged as we slide into the Thanksgiving weekend.

The rule tweak, which was cleared by the Supreme Court in April, will allow g-men to apply for a warrant to a nearby US judge to hack any suspect that’s using Tor, a VPN, or some other anonymizing software to hide their whereabouts, in order to find the target’s true location.

Normally, if agents want to hack a PC, they have to ask a judge for a warrant in the jurisdiction where the machine is located. This is tricky if the location is obscured by technology. With the changes to Rule 41 in place, investigators can get a warrant from any handy judge to deploy malware to find out where the suspect is based – which could be anywhere in America or the world.

Also, when agents are investigating a crime that spans five or more different judicial districts in the US, the new Rule 41 will allow them to go to just one judge for a warrant, rather than all the courts in all the involved jurisdictions. And it allows the Feds, with a search warrant, to poke around in people’s malware-infected computers.

Here’s how assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell summed up the changes:

Surveillance firm slashes staff after losing Facebook, Twitter data – Business isn’t good at a Chicago tech company that was outed last month for its practice of buying social media data and re-selling it to police.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that Geofeedia had been given access to data by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, which Geofeedia used to build software products for police that the ACLU called “surveillance tools.” Facebook and Instagram took cut off Geofeedia’s access in September, and Twitter blocked access after reviewing the ACLU report in October.

Losing access to those social media data feeds seems to have had a big impact on Geofeedia’s business. A Geofeedia spokesperson today told the Chicago Tribune that it laid off 31 employees out of about 60 total.

In an e-mailed statement to the newspaper, Geofeedia CEO Phil Harris said his company wasn’t “created to impact civil liberties,” but after the debate spurred by the ACLU report, they’re changing the company’s direction.

Facebook is reportedly building a censorship tool so it can re-enter China – Facebook is developing a software tool that suppresses users’ posts from appearing in the News Feed in designated geographic areas, a possible first step toward making the social network available in China, the New York Times reported. The tool has reportedly caused a controversy within Facebook, with “several employees” quitting in protest after working on it, according to the Times.

Facebook has been banned from China since 2009. Like many US technology companies, Facebook has long sought a way back in, seeing the country’s 1.3 billion residents as a source of enormous potential growth. Google built a version of its search engine that complied with China’s censorship guidelines but retreated from the country in 2010 after a series of seemingly state-sponsored cyberattacks. More recently, Uber exited the Chinese market with a quick sale of its business there to local rival Didi Chuxing.

As the Times notes, Facebook has taken down posts in other countries around the world, including Pakistan, Russia, and Turkey. But the tool now in development would prevent the posts from ever surfacing in the News Feed at all, according to the report. Facebook plans to outsource censorship duties to a third-party company, the report said.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – November 21, 2016

Jim Hillier: Best of Freeware 2016;   Worried about Windows 10 snooping? Here’s how you can stop it;  4 apps that give your phone a free second number;  Five ways to maintain your privacy on your smartphone, no downloads required;  The Top Black Friday Deals Sites;  Google Wifi wireless router: The smart person’s guide;  Google’s PhotoScan makes digitizing old photos easy;  How to Build a Website;  Everything you need to know about Windows 10 recovery drives;  How to avoid getting conned by fake news sites – and much more news you need to know.

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Jim Hillier: Best of Freeware 2016 – It’s a been a while since we last posted our best of freeware selections. That’s largely down to the fact that freeware offerings haven’t changed that much and new/innovative freeware has become somewhat of a rarity. So, there’s not much point in re-iterating categories which haven’t really changed (such as ‘image viewers’, for example, where FastStone, IrfanView, and XnView still pretty much rule the roost). The criteria for selections includes ease of use, feature set, plus overall efficacy. You will also notice that I have a particular leaning toward portable freeware. The availability of a portable version, where viable, is always a big plus in my book:

4 apps that give your phone a free second number – Need a disposable phone number for better online privacy? Or for an effective way to juggle work and personal lines? This is easier, and cheaper, than you think.

Worried about Windows 10 snooping? Here’s how you can stop it – Attempts to stem the quantity of data that Windows 10 gathers on users continue to this day. Here are the options available if you’re uncomfortable with how much data the OS hoovers up.

Everything you need to know about Windows 10 recovery drives – We take a look at the recovery drive, one of the most useful troubleshooting tools included with Windows 10.

Windows 10 tip: Protect removable storage devices with BitLocker encryption – Do you use a USB flash drive, MicroSD card, or portable hard drive to keep backups of important files? Protect yourself by encrypting removable storage devices so your files can’t be accessed if the drive is lost or stolen.

How to Use and Tweak the Start Screen in Windows 10 – Much maligned in Win 8, the Windows Start screen still exists, but it’s undergone several much-needed improvements.

How to avoid getting conned by fake news sites – Here’s how you can identify and avoid sites that just want to serve up ads next to outright falsehoods.

Just how partisan is Facebook’s fake news? We tested it – Far more spin and fake news is pushed at Trump supporters.

The Top Black Friday Deals Sites – Cash-strapped shoppers looking for the best deals should check out these online destinations. The sheer magnitude of deals can be overwhelming, but there are sites devoted entirely to highlighting the best, as well as collecting and scanning Black Friday circulars for you to peruse before the big day. Check out the gallery for sites that can help you plot your Black Friday plan of attack.

The 10 Best Gadget Gifts Under $60 – The 2016 holiday is fast approaching. That means one thing: gadget time. These are the TIME technology team’s suggestions for the best gifts under $60, which make great stocking stuffers or add-ons. We’ve also included a few lines about why we like each gadget we’ve picked for the list.

Five ways to maintain your privacy on your smartphone, no downloads required – You can download apps to audit your privacy, but who’s to say those apps aren’t a security risk themselves? Here are five tips for maintaining your privacy in the always-connected world.

Signal encryption app sees 400 percent boost after election – The co-founder of Open Whisper Systems says installations of its app have increased four-fold since November 8.

Facebook privacy settings: How to control your ad preferences – Facebook targets ads based on your activity. You can check–and change–what it thinks your interests are in Ad Preferences.

Google Wifi wireless router: The smart person’s guide – Our comprehensive guide about the Google Wifi wireless router includes its specifications and features, and what it means for small businesses and home use.

Google’s PhotoScan makes digitizing old photos easy – It is a question as old as time — or at least as old as digital photos: What is the best way to digitize old pictures? The answer is easy — a dedicated photo scanner. But, if you don’t want to drop the cash on one of those and spend all the time it takes to actually scan individual pictures, Google Photos thinks it has a pretty good solution in its new app.

Everything you need to know about home networking – CNET editor Dong Ngo gives all his answers to questions about the basics of home networking.

The 7 worst tech gifts you absolutely shouldn’t buy this holiday – Any site can tell you the best tech gifts to buy. But before you get too creative (or too cheap), read this list to find out what not to buy.

How to Build a Website – Need to establish an online presence for your business, but don’t know where to begin? Our primer will show you exactly what you need to get up and running in no time.

Security:

More Androids carry phone-home firmware – Got a cheap-and-cheerful Android phone from BLU, Infinix, Doogee, Leagoo, IKU, Beeline or Xolo? It might be harbouring some badware in the firmware. The issue affects phones that use an over-the-air update mechanism from Chinese company according to BitSight researcher Dan Dahlberg and Anubis Networks’ João Gouveia and Tiago Pereira. Since a firmware update runs at root, the phones in question are vulnerable to pretty much anything a malicious server might install. Which means a keylogger, bugging software, or anything else an attacker might contemplate. In a twist that doesn’t look like an accident, the vulnerable process tries to hide itself from the user and has a command that would let the manufacturer turn it off for six months or until the phone is rebooted

Hacker can backdoor your computer and router in 30 seconds with $5 PoisonTap – If you lock your computer and walk away, it takes only 30 seconds for a hacker armed with a small $5 Raspberry Pi Zero, which is loaded with devious code, to completely pwn your password-protected computer and install remotely accessible backdoors. PoisonTap, the latest creation of hacker and developer Samy Kamkar, has a long list of wicked slick capabilities, including the fact that after an attacker removes the device from a USB port, a backdoor and remote access will persist on both your computer and your router.

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Company News:

Symantec will acquire identity protection firm LifeLock in $2.3B deal – Aiming to boost its consumer security business, Symantec is acquiring LifeLock, a vendor of identity protection services, for US$2.3 billion in enterprise value.

Major layoffs signal Intel’s departure from wearables – Except for some of the biggest tech companies, the wearables market has been a tough one to find success in. It seem Intel is waking up to that fact, as new reports indicate the company is laying off almost all the staff from its wearable division. This also comes after the debacle surrounding Intel’s own Basis Peak smartwatch, which was recalled earlier this year over concerns of overheating and burning users.

Samsung says its Galaxy S7 smartphones are safe and do not have battery issues – Samsung has denied that devices in its Galaxy S7 range are affected by the same battery safety issue that forced it to kill off the Galaxy Note 7. In addition to the Note 7 disaster, there have been reports that other phones in Samsung’s newest range have combusted due to battery issues like the Note 7. A paramedic, a mother in Australia, and even a tech reporter are among those who have witnessed a Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Active device go up in smoke, while Samsung is facing a U.S. lawsuit that alleges its battery problems apply to older devices, too

Apple is replacing faulty batteries on ‘a very small number’ of iPhone 6s devices – Tis the season for Apple replacement programs, it appears. Days after the U.S. tech giant addressed ‘touch disease’ on certain iPhone 6 Plus devices, so Apple has announced a battery replacement program for iPhone 6s owners affected by unexpected shutdowns. Apple said the problem impacts “a very small number” of iPhone 6s devices that were made between September and October last year. In those cases, the phone may unexpectedly shut down due to issues with the battery. Owners of affected devices can go to their nearest Apple Store to check the serial number of their device — which should identify whether it is part of the malfunctioning batch — and then get a free battery replacement, if needed.

Chinese smartphone vendors show sales gains as Apple, Samsung decline – Third-quarter smartphone sales showed strength by Chinese vendors but declines of 6% for Apple iPhones and 14% for Samsung smartphones over last year. Samsung’s decline is unsurprising, given the furor over the overheated batteries in its Galaxy Note7s that surfaced in late August, leading to a global recall of millions of the devices.

Sources: Microsoft and HP will launch consumer Windows 10 phone in 2017 – Microsoft and HP are working on a consumer-tier Windows 10 Mobile phone, according to sources. This would follow the HP Elite X3, a phablet with a hefty price tag and features like Continuum and HP Workspace. Details about this tipped consumer-tier Windows phone are still slight at the moment, though the same sources say Microsoft has announced a phone event internally for February 2017, highlighting a timeframe in which we may see this handset announced.

Hell freezes over as Microsoft joins the Linux Foundation – Microsoft announced today it is joining the Linux Foundation, some 15 years after declaring Linux was a cancer. Looks like the cancer won.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: Top Game Consoles Duke It Out – Three years later, and the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 are still battling to be the best. Now the Xbox One S and PS4 Pro are jumping into the arena. Which side are you on?

8 awesome gifts for PC gamers – PC gamers are a tough, discriminating crowd to shop for. And if you don’t know the difference between an SSD and a GPU, it makes shopping even harder—can you imagine browsing for LED fans and power supply cables without knowing what you’re looking for? Yikes. But don’t worry—to make it easier for you, we’ve assembled a list of the best gifts for PC gamers that won’t break the bank. This is the gear that our gaming-obsessed staff is pining over this season, and there’s a little something to fit everyone’s needs.

Streaming-box app comparison: Roku vs. Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Fire TV vs. Android TV – It doesn’t matter how cheap or how powerful a media box might be if you can’t stream the programming you want. Here’s how the major players compare.

Google Play Movies is rolling out 4K rental and purchasing options – This will allow those with 4K televisions and a Chromecast Ultra to take full advantage of their capabilities, though the titles are going to cost you extra.

‘Motorsport Manager’ Shows That Racing Is About So Much More Than Driving – Auto-racing so often comes off as such a personal sport in video games, whether it’s in the realistic first-person views of Assetto Corsa or in the mad juggles for first place in a game like Super Mario Kart. Sometimes such games will tease at the larger truth beyond with menus that let players choose from multiple cars and tinker with features like rim styles and differentials, but the safe approach has always been to keep that under the rug and champion the illusion of personal glory. Motorsport Manager, a simulation game for PC, Mac, and Linux that casts you as the manager of a Formula 1-style racing team, tosses that personal focus aside to emphasize the big picture and emerges the better for it.

Massive Civilization VI update adds DirectX 12, new multiplayer mode and maps – The ranks of DirectX 12-compatible games continue to grow. Gears of War 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and Forza Horizon 3 all released in recent months with support for Microsoft’s next-gen graphics technology, and today, Civilization VI’s getting a big fall update that adds DX12 along with some new multiplayer goodies.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It – I’m a millennial computer scientist who also writes books and runs a blog. Demographically speaking I should be a heavy social media user, but that is not the case. I’ve never had a social media account. At the moment, this makes me an outlier, but I think many more people should follow my lead and quit these services. There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career. This claim, of course, runs counter to our current understanding of social media’s role in the professional sphere.

When Airbnb asked users to pledge to treat people equally, a lot refused – Stung by ongoing criticism and evidence that some of its hosts discriminated against non-white guests, Airbnb this month began asking users to pledge to treat everyone equally. A lot have refused. The so-called “community commitment” has been presented to Airbnb hosts and users since Nov. 1 and asks them to make a simple promise: to “treat everyone —regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age — with respect, and without judgment or bias.” Anyone declining to click the accept button has had their ability to host and book suspended and was given the option of canceling their account.

The 25 Best Inventions of 2016 – Every year, TIME selects the best inventions that are making the world better, smarter and—in some cases—a little more fun. In the past, we’ve featured everything from the real-life hoverboard to the desktop DNA lab. Here’s which ones made this year’s unranked list.

Tesla releases self-driving demo video that shows what the car sees – Tesla is continuing to go all-in with autonomous driving technology, having already promised that all future models, including the upcoming Model 3, will include self-driving features. Now found Elon Musk has shared a new video that attempts to better demonstrate to drivers how the technology works. The demo clip shows what it’s like for a Tesla vehicle to drive itself on local, public roads, all while showing the car’s point of view of things.

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World War II warships, submarines are being stolen off the ocean floor – On February 27 1942, an Allied force consisting of two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and nine destroyers faced off against the Imperial Japanese Navy in what’s now known as the Battle of the Java Sea. The battle was a massive defeat for the Allied fleet, which contained ships from the Australian, Dutch, UK, and American navies. The area where the battle took place is now considered a graveyard, given that more than 2300 sailors were killed in the engagement. But a recent mission to the area to film the sunken vessels as part of commemorating the 75th anniversary of the battle has discovered that many of the wrecks have vanished off the ocean floor.

The top 12 overused IT terms – Every part of the corporate world has its share of unusual and even strange jargon. IT is no different, offering us clouds, ecosystems, waterfalls, sprints and scrums, and even cookies and breadcrumbs. Does anyone outside of IT really know what these expressions mean? Here are the top 12 annoying, overused IT terms that we should replace with normal language.

Something to think about:

“Nothing is worse than active ignorance.”

–       Johann Wolfgang von Goethe    (1749 – 1832)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Britain has passed the ‘most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy’ – The UK has just passed a massive expansion in surveillance powers, which critics have called “terrifying” and “dangerous”.

The new law, dubbed the “snoopers’ charter”, was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government.

Four years and a general election later — May is now prime minister — the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses.

But civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government “document everything we do online”.

It’s no wonder, because it basically does.

Mark Zuckerberg outlines how Facebook will tackle its fake news problem – The weeks since the 2016 presidential election has put Facebook under the spotlight for its role in the circulation of fake news articles, which included President Barack Obama weighing in during a press conference earlier this week. While CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made an effort to sidestep the blame leveled against his company for the rise of these articles, he had said that the company has more work to do in combatting misinformation.

In a post to Facebook last night, Zuckerberg outlined the steps that Facebook is taking to limit the spread of false information, but reiterated his belief that the company should not become the “arbiters of truth.”

Some of the projects currently underway at Facebook include new systems that will help flag false information, better ways for people to report misinformation and flags to users once fake articles are reported, better recommendations when an article is clicked on, and updating its ad policies to discourage spam sites, which profit off of the exposure. He also noted that Facebook would be working with journalists and “respected fact checking organizations” to understand how they work to verify information, so that the company could learn from their efforts and experience.

It’s time to get rid of the Facebook “news feed,” because it’s not news – In the wake of the US election, critics have blamed Facebook for bringing about—at least in part—Trump’s surprise win. A BuzzFeed report showed that Facebook users interacted far more with “fake news” stories about both candidates than they did with mainstream news outlets before the election. This wouldn’t seem like such a big deal if it weren’t for a Pew Research Center survey showing that 44% of Americans rely on Facebook to get their news.

But proving whether fake news influenced the election more than the usual political propaganda is impossible. What’s certain is that fake news on Facebook is a symptom of a larger problem: the company is trying to play contradictory roles as both trustworthy news publisher and fun social media platform for personal sharing. The problem is that it cannot be both—at least not without making some changes.

U.S. lawmakers introduce bill to delay enhanced government hacking powers – U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation to delay the coming into force on Dec. 1 of a rule change that aims to expand the government’s ability to search computers and other digital devices across many jurisdictions with a single warrant.

The Review the Rule Act aims to delay for discussion proposed amendments to rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure until July 1 next year. The changes to the rule were upheld by the Supreme Court in April, and if Congress doesn’t act to the contrary, they will go into effect on Dec. 1.

The modified rule would remove the current prohibition with some exceptions on a federal judge issuing a search warrant  outside of the judge’s district, so as to enable the remote search by law enforcement of computers whose locations are concealed using technology such as anonymizing techniques. The changes in rule 41 were proposed by the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure at the request of the Justice Department.

The rule changes have been opposed by lawmakers, industry and civil rights groups who are concerned about their implications on privacy and surveillance.

Trump’s attorney general pick could restart the encryption fight – After weeks of speculation, President-elect Donald Trump today named Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as his choice for attorney general. The choice has already alarmed Trump critics for a number of reasons — particularly his role in drafting Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban muslim immigration — but for tech companies, there may be another concern entirely. Less than a year after prosecutors took Apple to court over an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino shootings, a Sessions-led Justice Department could be exactly what law enforcement needs to restart the encryption fight.

Sessions has to be confirmed by the Senate before he can officially take the post, but observers say it’s unlikely Democrats can effectively block the nomination.

A former prosecutor, Sessions was one of the FBI’s staunchest allies during the San Bernardino case, and has long criticized companies that design products without mechanisms for government access. As head of the Justice Department, Sessions would have the power to prosecute companies that don’t cooperate with law enforcement demands under the All Writs Act, the same mechanism used against Apple earlier this year.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – November 11, 2016

SSD vs. HDD: What’s the Difference?  Ed Bott makes Windows 10 work for you;  6 Tech Predictions for the Trump Years;  The best messaging apps with end-to-end encryption;  9 mobile apps designed to help veterans;  Ubisoft’s giving the wonderfully dumb Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon away for free;  Build a $400 Windows 10 PC;  Google Maps beta reveals new features;  Five password management apps that will work on all your devices;  This trick makes a cheap bottle of vodka taste like Grey Goose – and much more news you need to know.

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6 Tech Predictions for the Trump Years – It’s a new world: Donald Trump’s world. As 2017 hits, we’re going to see the US government’s attitude towards a range of technologies change, whether it be about a lighter touch on regulation or a harsher look at companies that import heavily from China. I hate making stock predictions. I’m going to try to stick to what I think you should expect and do, as US tech consumers, to prepare for 2017. For each prediction, I’m also trying to provide an action you should take to put yourself in the best position for the future.

The best messaging apps with end-to-end encryption – It’s not a pleasant idea to think that your messages could be archived for perpetuity on a large company’s server or analyzed by some algorithm. The quest for privacy has birthed a whole generation of apps that promise to give you exactly that. Services like Telegram and Signal have turned the phrase “end-to-end encryption” into a popular discussion. We’re here to help you figure out what this is all about and which apps to try.

Tips, tricks and shortcuts: Ed Bott makes Windows 10 work for you – Need help navigating Windows 10? Let Windows pro Ed Bott be your guide.


November 11 – Remembrance Day – Lest We Forget

Today is Remembrance Day here in Canada, and across the World. This day is set aside as a day to remember the sacrifices of members of the armed forces, and civilians, in times of war.

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National War Memorial – Ottawa, Canada.

9 mobile apps designed to help veterans – I count myself among the lucky veterans that left service without any serious physical or mental harm. For those that weren’t so fortunate taking advantage of the services offered to veterans can be difficult. That’s why I put together this list of apps that are great for veterans. Whether you need emergency help, need to determine what level of service connected disability payment you’re eligible for, or simply want to network with vets there are some great apps available.


SSD vs. HDD: What’s the Difference? – Do you like your storage plentiful and cheap, or do you like it fast and safe? Here’s how to choose between a traditional hard drive and a solid-state drive in your next PC.

Five password management apps that will work on all your devices – Password security is essential. We have more passwords than ever before and most of us don’t take them seriously. You can keep yourself safe with a password manager: Here are five worth checking out.

Google Maps beta reveals new features, including default satellite view – It would seem a new update that adds a few noteworthy features is on the way to Google Maps. The update to version 9.41.0 isn’t officially here yet, but it has entered beta, giving us a good look at what’s coming up. The folks over at Android Police got their hands on the beta and have put together a changelog that details the biggest additions this update will offer.

Now you’ll see ads in your LinkedIn mailbox too – LinkedIn is just the latest social network to let marketers target users through their inboxes.

Build a $400 Windows 10 PC – Looking to build a cheap Windows 10 PC? Here are the components you need to build a system that comes in at $400, including Windows 10! As always, shop around for the best deal on components, and remember that component prices change regularly.

Windows 10 to get a virtual touchpad for external displays – Although still not as widespread, it is no longer uncommon for computer users to face more than one screen at a time, whether in a more permanent multi-monitor setup or in an ad hoc presentation. Controlling external screens and projectors are no problem for desktops and laptops but can be cumbersome for tablets. Soon it won’t be. Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 Insider build showcases a new Virtual Touchpad feature that would allow users to navigate external displays using their tablets, even without a mouse attached.

Google Daydream View review: Fun for the entire family – Starting Thursday, Google’s next step in its attempt to bring virtual-reality to the masses will launch. Owners of a Google Pixel smartphone can purchase the Daydream View headset for $79 from various retail outlets or directly from Google to take advantage of the new platform. The idea of strapping a smartphone to your face and using it to enter a virtual world is something I still have trouble wrapping my head around, but after using Google Daydream for the past week I’m starting to see the light.

Google won’t build ad-blocking feature into Chrome – It’s better to reform misbehaving, power-sucking ads than to block them, the head of engineering for Google’s browser says.

How to download and save a Facebook video – Facebook doesn’t officially provide links to videos for you to save. But all you have to do is trick your browser into thinking you’re browsing Facebook on your phone.

TAPS touchscreen sticker lets any gloves work with any screen – Winter is here in much of the world and that means it’s glove weather. The catch with gloves is that many of them won’t work with your touchscreen device leaving you having to pull off a glove in the cold before you can answer a call or use your smartphone. TAPS touchscreen Sticker with Touch ID promises to allow you to use any glove with any touchscreen device.

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Snapchat put its crazy Spectacles on sale: here’s what happened – The company now known as Snap has hardware aspirations, and Spectacles is its first foray into that industry. The sunglasses feature integrated cameras that record short videos with a life-like perspective, but Snap isn’t making it easy to get ahold of its glasses. Rather than launching them through an online store, Snap has elected to make Spectacles available on a very limited basis via a vending machine…and this, by all accounts, has been quite a bit of fun.

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Share your Instagram stories with specific people – Instagram on Thursday added the ability to call out specific people within its photo story feature. In a move to outdo the functions of competitor Snapchat, Instagram now enables users to share photos and videos they’ve stitched together and tucked inside their app’s personal stories profile.

WhatsApp is rolling out two-factor authentication – WhatsApp users are beginning to see an option for two-factor authentication their account settings folder. According to Android Police, the feature is live in the most recent betas of the app (2.16.341 and above), and has also been spotted in the Windows Phone beta. Once activated, the app will prompt a user for a static six-digit passcode every time a new phone is registered to the account.

Security:

Russian Hackers Launch Targeted Cyberattacks Hours After Trump’s Win – Merely a few hours after Donald Trump declared his stunning victory, a group of hackers that is widely believed to be Russian and was involved in the breach of the Democratic National Committee launched a wave of attacks against dozens of people working at universities, think tank tanks, NGOs, and even inside the US government. Around 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the hackers sent a series of phishing emails trying to trick dozens of victims into opening booby-trapped attachments containing malware, and clicking on malicious links, according to security firm Volexity, which observed and reported the five attack waves. The targets work for organizations such as Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, the Atlantic Council, the RAND Corporation, and the State Department, among others.

Hacker shows how easy it is to take over a city’s public Wi-Fi network – An Israeli hacker found a vulnerability in routers that could have allowed him to take over the public Wi-Fi network of an entire city.

The latest weapon in the business email scammers’ arsenal? Small talk – Scammers pretending to be your boss are engaging in informal office conversation before asking to wire them funds.

Yahoo admits employees discovered hack in 2014 – Yahoo admitted today that some of its employees were aware of the theft of 500 million users’ data as early as 2014 — years before Yahoo publicly acknowledged the hack. The hack, which Yahoo has attributed to an unnamed “state-sponsored actor,” occurred in late 2014, and according to today’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it seems Yahoo detected it early on. Yahoo also reported that 23 consumer class action lawsuits have been filed in response to the breach, but that it’s too early to estimate monetary damages. It estimates the hack has led to a loss of $1 million so far.

Company News:

Mark Zuckerberg named Business Person of the Year – Fortune magazine has just anointed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as Business Person of the Year for 2016. The media outlet cites numerous criteria for honoring Zuckerberg, whose social network is used by nearly 1.8 billion people around the world, including the company’s performance year over year as well as his vision for growth and the ability to achieve it.

Google responds in EU antitrust case: “Android hasn’t hurt competition” – The company is accused of using Android’s position as the dominant smartphone operating system in Europe to force manufacturers to pre-install Google services while locking out competitors. Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager sent a so-called Statement of Objections to Google in April. On Thursday, the multinational corporation defended its position and spoke of the open source nature of the Android operating system. It also compared a typical Android smartphone to rivals Apple and Microsoft. According to Google, 39 out of 39 pre-installed apps are from Apple on iPhone 7, and 39 out of 47 pre-installed apps on the Microsoft Lumia 550 are from Microsoft.

Google says there are now 2 billion active Chrome installs – Google is hosting its Chrome Dev Summit today. There hasn’t been a lot of news out of the event, but one number that stood out in today’s keynote by Chrome Engineering VP Darin Fisher was that there are now 2 billion Chrome installs in active use across desktop and mobile. This is the first time Google has shared this number. Sadly, Google didn’t announce any new user numbers for Chrome today. The latest stat for active Chrome users remains at 1 billion — a number Google shared in April. While this number is surely higher today than it was six months ago, the company decided to focus on the number of active browser install today.

Nvidia crushes Q3 earnings, shares soar – Nvidia posted record-revenue for the quarter, and once again credits strong sales of its GPUs and deep learning technology for the boost on its balance sheet.

Apple CEO urges workers to ‘move forward together’ postelection – Tim Cook tells his staff in a memo that, in spite of the “strong feelings” that follow the election, the only option is to keep on keeping on.

Apple tax case: Ireland to formally appeal EU state aid ruling – The European Commission’s ruling that Apple should pay Ireland €13 billion (£11.1 billion) in back taxes is set to be formally disputed by the Irish government. Finance Minister Michael Noonan said on Tuesday that Dublin would challenge the judgment on Wednesday. In August, competition officials in Brussels concluded that the so-called sweetheart tax deals Apple received from Ireland constituted illegal state aid. The commission’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, said at the time: “Member states cannot give tax benefits to selected companies—this is illegal under EU state aid rules.”

Games and Entertainment:

Ubisoft’s giving the wonderfully dumb Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon away for free – Need something to tear you away from post-election social media today? Ubisoft delivers. As part of its ongoing 30th anniversary celebration, the company is giving away its latest monthly freebie—the neon-soaked Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. You can head here to get your copy, though you’ll need a Uplay account. That bitter pill aside, I recommend you grab it even if you’re a bit tired of Far Cry. Blood Dragon sticks to the same formula Ubisoft’s run into the ground since Far Cry 3, but it’s a bit more linear and cranks the “Dumb” meter to 11. Oh, and it ditches the realistic aesthetic of most Far Cry games for one that lifts from straight-to-VHS 1980s action films.

Free Overwatch weekend kicks off November 18 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC – Overwatch will almost certainly go down as one of the best games of the year, but if you’ve held out thus far, Blizzard is about to give you a chance to see what you’ve been missing. Blizzard has announced that Overwatch will be free to play across all platforms starting November 18. The promotion will last the entire weekend, wrapping up on November 21.

10 Games Every Sony PlayStation 4 Player Needs – Sony’s catalog of titles has expanded this past year to include some truly excellent exclusive games, as well as some multiplayer titles you do not want to miss. Uncharted 4 arrived in late spring to deliver the dazzling cinematic experience PlayStation fans have come to expect from the series. Doom is an amazing first-person shooter on any platform, but it is one PlayStation 4 players need to own if they don’t already. For the full rundown of our top 10 favorite PS4 games, check out the gallery.

Xbox Holiday Update brings more social fun, PC gamers invited – Everyone is overdue some distraction and relaxation these days. Fortunately, the holidays are just around the corner. Which also means gaming season is upon us! To ensure that the season will be enjoyable not just for you but for your friends as well, Microsoft has rolled out its 2016 Holiday Update for the Xbox platform, both on the Xbox One and as well as the Xbox apps. And like many of the updates these past months, this one puts a lot of weight on the social aspects of gaming, like forming Clubs and Looking For Groups, whether on the console or on the PC.

Incredible indie games of PAX Australia – Many agree the best part of PAX Australia is seeing the wonderfully creative projects from indie developers. Here are 11 standouts from 2016.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Zuckerberg denies Facebook News Feed bubble impacted the election – In the aftermath of the U.S. Presidential election, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at Techonomy16 to address concerns that the company didn’t do enough to stop the proliferation of fake news on News Feed. Zuckerberg insisted that more can always be done to improve the quality of the News Feed experience, but that Facebook could not have influenced the outcome of the election. “Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, of which it’s a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg said. He continued by saying people are looking for a narrative to explain the election. However, he believes that a narrative that implicitly assumes Trump supporters are dumb enough to be manipulated by Facebook is insulting to those voters.

Facebook admits it must do more to stop the spread of misinformation on its platform – Facebook has responded to widespread criticism of how its Newsfeed algorithm disseminates and amplifies misinformation in the wake of the Trump victory in the US presidential election yesterday. Multiple commentators were quick to point a finger of blame at Facebook’s role in the election campaign, arguing the tech giant has been hugely irresponsible given the role its platform now plays as a major media source, and specifically by enabling bogus stories to proliferate — many examples of which were seen to circulated in the Facebook Newsfeed during the campaign.

China’s public security officer appointed Interpol head – Meng Hongwei, who is China’s vice minister of public security, assumes his new role as president immediately for a four-year tenure and pledges to adhere to Interpol’s principles.

Americans Are Flocking to Online Therapy For Post-Election Counseling – In this election, politics have been very personal. With Donald Trump as president-elect, the fate of the country has become a wild card, and many women, Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ citizens, and other minorities feel individually marginalized by the prospect of his leadership. So naturally they’re looking for help. Online therapy sites have seen an immediate uptick in clientele throughout the election. The American Psychological Association reported that even weeks before the results came in, 52 percent of Americans were coping with “high levels of stress brought on by this election.”

This trick makes a cheap bottle of vodka taste like Grey Goose – Everyone would love to be able to go to the store and pick up a premium vodka, but not everyone’s budgets will allow for such an indulgence. But there’s good news for those who want to stock up on booze for the holidays. The lowest quality vodka can apparently be improved with something you probably already have in your kitchen: a water filtering pitcher. I tested the trick to see if it works. Here’s what happened.

What GM has learned from 20 years of collecting data from cars with OnStar – Virtually all businesses struggle to understand large volumes of data. But OnStar gives GM a leg up; it’s been analyzing data from drivers for two decades. See what it’s learned.

Something to think about:

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

TIME: President Obama Should Shut Down the NSA’s Mass Spying Before It’s Too Late – President Obama has just 71 days until Donald Trump is inaugurated as our next commander-in-chief. That means he has a matter of weeks to do one thing that could help prevent the United States from veering into fascism: declassifying and dismantling as much of the federal government’s unaccountable, secretive, mass surveillance state as he can — before Trump is the one running it.

Snowden says tech companies should protect privacy no matter who is president – Edward Snowden gave an extended interview today touching on numerous topics, from the Trump Presidency to his own future. Overall his message was clear: it’s not about thwarting one leader or even one government, but using technology that guarantees rights across borders and administrations. In other words: don’t hate, innovate.

One of the early questions in the interview, which lasted a bit under an hour and was sponsored by Startpage.com, was posed by Ralph Zimmerman, creator of the PGP encryption protocol. Trump, he said, would be inheriting a powerful surveillance infrastructure — something that worries many.

“We should be cautious about putting too much faith or fear in elected officials,” Snowden said. “We’re never farther than an election away from a change in leader, from a change in policy, a change in the way the powers we have constructed into a system are used. So what we need to think about now is not how do we defend against a president Donald Trump, but how do we protect the rights of everyone, everywhere, without regard to jurisdictions, without regard to borders?”

“Ultimately,” he said, “if we want to see a change, we must force it through ourselves.”

Could President Trump Really Turn the NSA Into a Personal Spy Machine? – It’s the nightmare scenario that many worried about: the US elects a president who uses the country’s nearly omnipotent surveillance powers for his or her own gain. Edward Snowden has described the NSA’s spying capabilities as the “architecture of oppression,” with the fear being that it could be deployed by a malicious commander in chief. But what could President Trump, a man who has incited hate speech against minorities and threatened to jail his political rivals, actually do with the NSA? Could he turn the NSA into his own personal spying army?

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