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No, Microsoft is not spying on you with Windows 10;  A Battle Royale Of Digital Assistants: The Big 5;  4 overblown Windows 10 worries;  Free or discounted software licenses, cloud resources for students;  How to cure Windows 10’s worst headaches;  Facebook reaches 1-billion users milestone;  How ad blockers can improve your online safety and sanity;  Report: Most ‘Women’ on Ashley Madison Were Actually Fake;  Seven essential mobile apps for students;   Instagram supports landscape & vertical photos;  NFL without cable: A cord cutter’s guide for the 2015/2016 season;  The hidden cost of those ‘free’ gambling apps;  FIFA 16 demo lets you try women’s teams and more;  Pew report: Americans frown upon phone use in social settings;  Associated Press sues FBI over fake news story;  BitTorrent patches flaw;  25 Quotes That Take You Inside Albert Einstein’s Revolutionary Mind.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

No, Microsoft is not spying on you with Windows 10 – The Windows 10 privacy agreement doesn’t mean Microsoft is secretly stealing the data from your hard disk. Where do people come up with these crazy ideas? There is apparently a growing and very vocal population of people who believe that Windows 10 is basically a 1984 telescreen come to life. They are convinced that with Windows 10 Microsoft has built a spying apparatus not seen since the height of the Cold War, scraping up every detail of your life and feeding it back to Redmond for who knows what nefarious purposes. They’re going to need lots of tinfoil. They’re also either wildly misinformed or deliberately agitating. Unless, of course, they’re just crazy, which is entirely possible based on some of what I’ve read.

4 overblown Windows 10 worries – There are a lot of alarms going off about Windows 10’s effect on your security and privacy. We look at the four top concerns to find out whether they’re true or not, and tell you what you can do about them.

How to cure Windows 10’s worst headaches – Despite the many highlights of Windows 10—Cortana, virtual desktops, windowed Windows Store apps, the revamped Start menu, DirectX 12, among others—there are still some annoyances with the new operating system. Windows 10 can reset your default browser if you upgrade; updates are now mandatory; and behind the scenes, the new OS is a file-sharing machine. Those are just a few of Windows 10’s notable headaches, but the good news is there are fixes for all these problems. Even better? Most are really easy to implement. Let’s dig in.

Free or discounted software licenses and cloud resources for students and educators – Get ahead of the class by using these offers for free or discounted software licenses and cloud resources available to university students and educators around the world. Many of the biggest names in IT provide free or heavily discounted access to software for students, in the hopes of converting them to paid customers after graduation. Students and educators, check out these available options.

Seven essential mobile apps for students – I’ve cut through the clutter and put together a list of educational apps that have something to offer students in middle school, high school and college. You’ll be able to use them with your Android or Apple device, and often your desktop browser. Some of them are so handy, it almost makes me want to go back to school again. I said “almost.”

A Battle Royale Of Digital Assistants: The Big 5 – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook now all have their own digital assistants that they’ve been pumping tons of cash into. There are lots of smaller companies also looking to break into this space (which I’ll soon look at separately) but these tech titans clearly have the upper hand at the moment. In a lot of ways most of these services struggle in similar areas where the technology isn’t quite where it needs to be, but each of these assistants definitely have their own flavor with some being clearly being better than others.

Chrome is getting more aggressive about silencing autoplay videos – Chrome is getting more aggressive about that least popular web feature: autoplay video. A new post from engineer François Beaufort laid out Chrome’s new approach, which will block playback as long as a given autoplay video is in a background tab. The browser will still load the video as soon as the tab is opened, but it won’t start it until you visit the page itself, hopefully preventing the usual surprise when a late-loading video starts up in the background. Under the new setup, that video won’t play until you click back to the relevant tab.

Instagram stops being a square, supports landscape & vertical photos – Instagram has finally gotten with the times and dropped its requirement that photos be in a square format. The social network has updated both its iOS and Android apps and now allows users to post photos in landscape and vertical orientations, in addition to the classic square. The same size change is applied to videos too. This will likely be a welcome change to Instagram users, who for years already have been taking photos and video on devices with rectangular screens.

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Microsoft Snip lets you quickly annotate and add audio to screenshots – If taking screenshots is part of your job, Microsoft is aiming to make it easier with a new tool called Snip. Available as a free beta, Snip lets you cut out a portion of the screen, annotate it with a drawing tool or voice notes, and then save or share the results. It’s unclear if Microsoft is planning to charge for the app, which was first spotted by The Verge. While Snip is hardly the only screen capture tool for Windows, its simplicity (and the fact that it’s free) makes it worth considering. If you don’t need the more extensive options of tools like Greenshot and PicPick, Snip could be a more efficient option.

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LG’s full-sized tablet keyboard rolls up for easy travel – The latest Bluetooth keyboard for tablets offers full-sized keys and yet rolls up into a stick resembling a big Tootsie Roll. LG makes it and it’s appropriately named the Rolly keyboard. Bluetooth pairing starts immediately once the keyboard is unrolled and LG says it can be paired with two mobile devices via Bluetooth 3.0. That feature can’t be used simultaneously of course; even though you can pair with two devices, the Rolly only works with one at a time.

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How to quickly shut down Windows 10 – It must be a point of pride in Redmond that even after all these years, you still have to click “Start” to shut down your computer. Granted, the Start button is no longer labeled that way, having evolved into a Windows-logo button back in Vista. But that’s still what it’s called, and still how Microsoft refers to it. So even in Windows 10, you have to click “Start” to shut down your PC. Then you click Power, and finally Shut Down. I’ll never understand why Microsoft has steadfastly refused to add a one-click Shut Down button to the desktop. Fortunately, there are faster ways to turn off your computer.

Adobe aims to bring Photoshop to mobile masses with upcoming app – Photoshop is so well known that the product name is synonymous with photo editing. But the software itself is a success only on personal computers, not smartphones or tablets. Photoshop’s maker, Adobe Systems, hopes that will change in October at its Max conference for developers and creative professionals when it introduces a new Photoshop app for editing photos on Apple’s iPhones and iPads initially and Android-powered devices later. The free software, called only Project Rigel for now, is designed to bring a more accessible interface to what can be a dauntingly complex program on PCs.

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Twitch meets Periscope with new streaming app Mirrativ – Move over Periscope, there’s a new live-streaming app vying for our attention. Launching today, Mirrativ (a portmanteau of mirror and narrative) lets you broadcast whatever is happening on the screen of your smartphone or tablet. It combines untethered mobile broadcasting, screen sharing and social interactions into one single app. You can use Mirrativ in beta on Android starting today, with iOS following in the coming weeks.

Ex-Apple CEO John Sculley outs pretty and cheap Obi Worldphones – Just to be clear, it’s Obi Worldphones, not Obi Wan. Terrible pop culture references aside, this news isn’t something you see everyday. John Sculley, who, at one point in time, lead one of the world’s biggest tech companies, has co-founded and announced two new smartphones. While some already point out their rather alluring design, these Obi Worldphones are two things that no iPhone will ever be: Android and affordable. Just because you were the former CEO of Apple doesn’t mean you have to forever drink their Kool-aid, right?

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Microsoft delivers Windows 10 PC build 10532 to Insiders – Windows 10 Build 10532 is available as of August 27 to those in the Fast Ring. In this latest build, Microsoft has improved context menus to give them “a modern look and feel” in the latest test build. The company also has enabled sharing in the Windows Feedback app, so that testers can share feedback via Twitter, Facebook and other channels. Microsoft simultaneously is rolling out test Build 10532 of its Edge browser, which includes new canvas blend modes, pointer lock, asm.js on by default and more.

Security:

How ad blockers can improve your online safety and sanity –  Ad blockers – software or browser extensions that filter all HTML elements that are expected to contain ads – can do more than just hide annoying ads. They can optimize your online experience in multiple ways, including decreasing your risk for encountering malware. We lay out the advantages of using an ad blocker and give you a few recommendations on which ones we like.

Tor security concerns prompt largest dark market to suspend operations – Administrators of Agora, the largest online black marketplace operating on the Tor anonymity network, decided to temporarily suspend the website because of possible attacks based on recent methods of exposing Tor Hidden Services.

BitTorrent patches flaw that could amplify distributed denial-of-service attacks – BitTorrent fixed a vulnerability that would have allowed attackers to hijack BitTorrent applications used by hundreds of millions of users in order to amplify distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The flaw was disclosed earlier this month in a paper presented at the 9th USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies by four researchers from City University London, Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences in Friedberg, Germany and cloud networking firm PLUMgrid.

Report: Most ‘Women’ on Ashley Madison Were Actually Fake – There’s a good chance that most men on Ashley Madison never even had the opportunity to cheat. That’s because most women on the site were actually fake. According to an analysis of the Ashley Madison data dump from Gizmodo, just about 12,000 of the 5.5 million female profiles on the now-infamous adultery site belonged to actual, living breathing women.

Company News:

Facebook reaches 1-billion users milestone – This week Facebook reached a milestone, one that includes 1-billion people having used the social network in a single day. This isn’t an average number – as Mark Zuckerberg said in an announcement today – but it is rather important. Facebook has millions of users log in every day, and billions of people using the social network every month, but here for the first time in the website’s history 1-billion people used Facebook in a single day.

Life360 Acquires Chronos To Add “Quantified Self” Tracking To Its Family Locator App – Life360, the maker of mobile applications for iOS, Android and Windows Phone that help keep families connected, has acquired Chronos Mobile Technologies, a startup behind a number of mobile apps that passively collect data from users’ smartphones in order to highlight trends and connections between various behaviors. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Chronos had closed on a small seed round from Maven Ventures, Draper Associates and Major League Baseball earlier in 2015.

Report: ‘Dozens’ of Amazon Fire Phone Engineers Get the Axe – Lackluster Fire Phone sales have reportedly prompted Amazon to lay off “dozens” of engineers at Lab126, a division of the company that focuses on Amazon’s hardware development, according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s unclear exactly how many people were let go since they must sign non-disclosure agreements into order to get severance, the Journal said, but the division employs about 3,000 workers.

CenturyLink to deploy broadband to rural areas in 33 states – Telecom carrier CenturyLink will roll out broadband to 1.2 million U.S. homes and businesses in rural areas, using US 6 million from the Federal Communications Commission. The six-year project, expected to start early next year, covers rural areas in 33 states, including large parts of the Midwest, West and Southeast, in addition to other areas. States included in the deployment include Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Google rejects antitrust charges, digs in for a long fight – Google has responded to European Union regulators’ claims that its search results violate antitrust law, saying its search results are focused on “improving quality” and are not anti-competitive. “Google increases choice for European consumers and offers valuable opportunities for businesses of all sizes,” wrote company general counsel Kent Walker in a Google blog post. “Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents, and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive.” The blog post accompanies Google’s formal legal response that was filed today. European Union antitrust regulators formally charged Google with anticompetitive conduct in April.

Facebook Finally Cracks Down On Video Piracy – Facebook didn’t get to be one of the largest video streamers on the web without making a few enemies. Unfortunately, up to this point, a lot of those enemies were the people actually creating cool video content for the site. Today, Facebook is trying to rectify its poor management of controlling video piracy on its site and appease video creators who have been getting kind of pissed off at the site with a series of new updates.

SoundCloud faces lawsuit over alleged failure to pay royalties – Contentions regarding SoundCloud and the payment of royalties has been long-running, and now the audio streaming service is facing a lawsuit from Performing Rights Society for Music, more commonly referred to as PRS. The entity advised its members recently that it has sought for SoundCloud to “recognize their responsibilities” repeatedly; PRS states SoundCloud requires a license to operate in Europe and the United Kingdom. PRS went further and issued a press statement advising that it has “no choice” in the matter, and that after a half a decade of failed negotiations, it must proceed with a lawsuit.

Amazon Prime’s streaming video service to launch in Japan – With Netflix having already announced that they’re launching in Japan on September 2nd, Amazon has decided it’s not going to wait for its rival to gain a lead in the local market for streaming video services. The US internet shopping giant has announced it will be debuting its Prime Video service in Japan sometime this fall. Like Netflix’s service in the country, it’s still not clear what kind of programs will be available for streaming, however Amazon has promised the lineup will include popular US movies and TV shows, their award-winning originals, plus native Japanese content.

Games and Entertainment:

NFL without cable: A cord cutter’s guide for the 2015/2016 season – It’s getting a little easier to watch pro football online or over-the-air without an expensive cable TV bundle, but you’ll still have to make a few sacrifices.

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FIFA 16 demo lets you try women’s teams and more – Want to try out FIFA 16 before it hit store shelves? You’re in luck, as Electronic Arts has announced that a free demo for the upcoming professional soccer game will arrive starting September 8 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The FIFA 16 demo will let you try out the standard Kick-Off mode, as well as FIFA Ultimate Team Draft, FIFA Trainer, and new skill games. Featured in the demo are 10 high-profile teams from the around the world, as well as two women’s teams–including the World Cup-winning US Women’s National Team.

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EA Sports

The hidden cost of those ‘free’ gambling apps – Some of the most downloaded and highest-grossing video games in leading app stores use casino motifs for their designs, raising questions about the potential dangers of gambling apps.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is taking it to the Max…the IMAX – That’s correct, December 18 returns to a galaxy far, far away will come at you at the largest format possible for over a month, likely at a theater near you. A lot of high-profile movies get the IMAX treatment these days and since those tickets cost more for a premium experience — IMAX screens are an important part of increasing a movie’s box office take. The other gimmick used to convince you to see a film in theaters instead of waiting for it to stream is 3D, though thankfully The Force Awakens will spare us that.

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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate ships on PC a month after consoles – Publisher Ubisoft will release Assassin’s Creed Syndicate on PC a month after it launches on consoles, to help ensure the build is shipped without major bugs or glitches. The action adventure title, which follows the story of brother and sister assassins in Victorian London, is scheduled for launch on PC from November 19. That equates to about a month delay from the PS4 and Xbox One release date, which is October 23. Previously, Ubisoft had given the PC build a “Holiday 2015” release target.

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Divinity: Original Sin II preview: An ambitious sequel to one of the biggest, best RPGs of 2014 – When talking about last year’s excellent Divinity: Original Sin, I’m fond of saying, “Imagine the game you’d get if, instead of dying off in the early 2000s, the isometric CRPG genre had kept evolving through 2014.” Now imagine that the same company came back afterward and pitched a sequel twice the scope. That’s Divinity: Original Sin II.

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Watching Is the New Doing – Gaming makes it a breeze to find and watch an endless supply of gaming livestreams and videos, but it’s a bit rough around the edges.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The Psychology Of Insecurity – Why do we keep reading about a litany of breaches? Don’t cyber pros understand they are looking after our most sensitive personal data? Yes they do, but to understand their actions demands a more detailed examination of the psychology of security from the perspective of the security professional. It is time to recognize the psychology of our insecurity. We need a stronger mandate than regulation and the occasional public shaming of a clueless leader of an organization chartered with guarding vital information. We need infrastructure that is secure by design. There is no army of “cyber experts” big enough to pick through the haystack of alerts, trying to find the attack that actually penetrated the enterprise.

Pew report: Americans frown upon phone use in social settings – The widespread presence of mobile devices, namely smartphones, have brought about new issues in regards to etiquette, and though over the years a general shape about proper usage has formed, many still bicker about what is appropriate and what isn’t. Pew Research recently surveyed a bunch of Americans to find out their opinions on smartphone usage in public, and found that while most people are fine with phones being used when a person is in public, only a small percentage think it is okay to use the phone during a social gathering, whether you’re at the restaurant or just talking to someone.

25 Quotes That Take You Inside Albert Einstein’s Revolutionary Mind – In his lifetime, Einstein changed the world, describing the workings of reality better than anyone since Isaac Newton and revealing the capabilities of the atom bomb. In 1999, Time named him Person of the Century. Here are 25 of Einstein’s most telling quotes; each will take you inside the mind of the legend.

Iowa starts testing smartphone-based digital driver’s licenses – Over a year ago, we heard about the state of Iowa’s initiative to develop digital driver’s licenses that could eventually replace the plastic cards used through the US. The digital licenses would feature the same information as the physical versions — photo, address, date of birth, etc. — but be stored on a user’s smartphone. Well, Iowa has now announced that it’s beginning a test program, known as the Mobile Driver License (mDL), for a number of different situations, but limited to employees of the states’ Department of Transportation.

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HandUp, A Startup Focused On The Homeless, Launches Donation Gift Cards For Those Living On SF’s Streets – Since HandUp launched, the site has raised 6,000 so far for homeless people, mostly in San Francisco. On the site, moms are asking for funding for diapers. A veteran named Adam is raising a few thousand dollars for dental work. Another mother named Gladys, who lost both of her sons to unsolved homicides, is raising money to fix the van she lives in. Social workers and case managers at HandUp’s partner organizations make sure that clients are able to get what they asked for. But one of the most commonly requested features from donors was gift cards that people could give out directly on the street to people they pass by every day.

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Should police have the capability to take control of driverless cars? – There have already been plenty of ethical questions asked, like whether a driverless car should decide who lives or who dies during an accident scenario. One question often posed is whether a driverless vehicle could choose to ram a school bus full of kids or sacrifice the driverless vehicle’s occupants during a mishap. Now the Rand Corp. is thinking about how law enforcement officials should deal with driverless cars. A recent study (PDF) by the group ponders whether a cop should have the ability to remotely control a vehicle to pull it over.

Why We Look – We look because it’s there. We humans look towards violence in order to define it, to decide where we must run (or if we should stand and fight). We are fascinated by suffering. There is a cognitive bias towards the terrible. Many complain that there is not enough “happy” news. The problem is that there is happy news all around us, we just don’t notice. A baby smiling or someone offering someone else a spot on the bus doesn’t go viral because most humans experience little kindnesses and forget them. But we don’t forget violence.

Adobe says stop using ‘Photoshop’ as a generic term – When a company’s product so thoroughly corners a market that it becomes well-known even by those who have never used it, the company faces a problem: generic use of that product’s name. You’re likely to hear the term “dumpster” used generically, for example, as it is now a genericized trademark due to its common usage. Other trademarks have suffered the same fate — yo-yo, for example, and aspirin. Adobe doesn’t want its popular photo-editing software Photoshop to suffer the same fate, but it may be too late to stop it.

Something to think about:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”

–   Albert Einstein

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Associated Press sues FBI over fake news story – The Associated Press filed a lawsuit (PDF) this morning, demanding the FBI hand over information about its use of fake news stories. The case stems from a 2007 incident regarding a bomb threat at a school. The FBI created a fake news story with an Associated Press byline, then e-mailed it to a suspect to plant malware on his computer.

The AP sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI last year seeking documents related to the 2014 sting. It also seeks to know how many times the FBI has used such a ruse since 2000. The FBI responded to the AP saying it could take two years or more to gather the information requested. Unsatisfied with the response, the Associated Press has taken the matter to court.

An Electronic Frontier Foundation FOIA request on a different matter revealed the strategy in 2011, but it wasn’t made public until last year, when privacy researcher Chris Soghoian saw evidence of the operation in the documents and tweeted about it. That spurred both the AP and The Seattle Times to complain vocally about the FBI’s behavior.

“The FBI both misappropriated the trusted name of The Associated Press and created a situation where our credibility could have been undermined on a large scale,” AP General Counsel Karen Kaiser wrote in a letter to then-AG Eric Holder last year.

Germany trades citizens’ metadata for NSA’s top spy software – In order to obtain a copy of the NSA’s main XKeyscore software, whose existence was first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency agreed to hand over metadata of German citizens it spies on. According to documents seen by the German newspaper Die Zeit, after 18 months of negotiations, the US and Germany signed an agreement in April 2013 that would allow the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamtes für Verfassungsschutz—BfV) to obtain a copy of the NSA’s most important program and to adopt it for the analysis of data gathered in Germany.

This was a lower level of access compared to the non-US “Five Eyes” nations—the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand—which had direct access to the main XKeyscore system. In return for the software, the BfV would “to the maximum extent possible share all data relevant to NSA’s mission.” Interestingly, there is no indication in the Die Zeit story that the latest leak comes from Snowden, which suggests that someone else has made the BfV’s “internal documents” available.


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