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Published: Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:21:30 -0800

Last Build Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:21:30 -0800

 



As with PCs, you can now customize Raspberry Pi-like computers

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:20:31 -0800

The Raspberry Pi 3 is a great product, but it can't be customized. People may desire more storage or a faster processor, but have to settle for features on the board computer.

The lack of customization with board computers is driven by their low prices. Buyers get features commensurate with the low price of boards like the US$35 Raspberry Pi and $15 Pine64.

No one's complaining about the low prices, but the one-size-fits-all nature may not be for everyone. Taking a page from PC makers, Via Technology is now making it possible to configure board computers to specific needs through its website.

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Encrypted email service ProtonMail is now accessible over Tor

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 11:17:05 -0800

The creators of encrypted email service ProtonMail have set up a server that's only accessible over the Tor anonymity network as a way to fight possible censorship attempts in some countries.

ProtonMail was created by computer engineers who met while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The service provides end-to-end encrypted email through a web-based interface and mobile apps, but the encryption is performed on the client side, and the ProtonMail servers never have access to plaintext messages or encryption keys.

On Thursday, Proton Technologies, the Geneva-based company that runs ProtonMail, announced that it has set up a Tor hidden service, or onion site, to allow users to access the service directly inside the Tor anonymity network.

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Google reveals its stealthy moves to keep Android phones free from malware

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:55:00 -0800

Way back when Android 4.2 Jelly Bean was released, Google added a feature called Verify Apps that sought to protect users who inadvertently may have downloaded a piece of malware and attempted to side-load it onto their phone. The service, which is enabled by default on all Android devices, scans apps that are installed from sources other than the Play Store, and warns the user if they may be potentially harmful.

It’s so silent and unobtrusive, most users don’t even know Verify Apps is running, which also means they don’t know when it’s not running. As Google explains in a blog post, that could be the result of an app that has snuck by its gate-keeping and purposefully turned it off, opening the door for potential problems. Google calls these devices Dead or Insecure (DOI), and in turn, if an app has a high percentage of DOI devices downloading it, it will be considered a DOI app. That’s where Google’s security wizardry comes into play.

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27% ASUS VivoStick TS10-B017D Intel Atom Z8350 - Deal Alert

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:43:00 -0800

The innovative ASUS VivoStick plugs directly into an HDMI port to turn any HDMI monitor into a productive Windows 10 PC or any TV into an enhanced Smart TV. With 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, VivoRemote mobile app and USB 2.0 & 3.0 ports, VivoStick uniquely combines versatility and portability, and measures only 5.3” x 1.4” x 0.6”. See the discounted VivoStick on Amazon, where its typical list price of $119 has been reduced to $87.

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Prices plummet for AMD's beastly Radeon Pro Duo graphics card ahead of Vega's release

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:30:00 -0800

The long, confusing lifecycle of AMD’s beastly Radeon Pro Duo is quietly entering its final days as retailers clear the deck for the forthcoming Radeon Vega graphics cards.

The $1,500 MSRP Radeon Pro Duo sits reigns as AMD’s graphics champion with not one but two high-end Fiji graphics processors, exotic high-bandwidth memory, and integrated closed-loop water cooling that kept the board running at chilly temperatures. But the timing and messaging around the graphics card just felt wrong from day one.

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EU antitrust regulators praise audiobooks deal from Apple, Amazon

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:24:00 -0800

Antitrust regulators from the European Union have welcomed an agreement between Apple and Amazon to end exclusivity deals for audiobooks.

The agreement between Apple and Amazon and its Audible service to remove the exclusivity obligations allows Audible to supply its downloadable audiobooks to third-party platforms beyond iTunes, the European Commission said Thursday. In addition, the agreement will allow Apple to source audiobooks from new suppliers and will allow publishers to enter into distributions agreements directly with Apple, the Commission said.

Audible and Apple's iTunes store are two of the world's largest distributors of downloadable audiobooks to consumers. Audible, owned by Amazon since 2008, is the world's largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks.

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China Oceanwide, IDG Capital agree to acquire IDG, publisher of PCWorld and Macworld

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:20:00 -0800

China Oceanwide Holdings Group and China-based IDG Capital have agreed to acquire tech journalism pioneer International Data Group, publisher of PCWorld, Computerworld, and hundreds of other tech publications worldwide.

Tech analyst firm IDC and venture capital firm IDG Ventures are included in the deal, announced Thursday. The size of the deal was not officially released, although a Wall Street Journal story put the price at less than US $1 billion.

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Resident Evil 7 joins Microsoft's ambitious Play Anywhere program for PCs and Xbox One

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:03:00 -0800


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Nintendo's bringing Super Mario Run to Android in March, but Fire Emblem's coming first

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:33:00 -0800

Android users have been waiting patiently to play Super Mario Run on their phones since the side scroller launched exclusively on the iPhone in December, but it looks like it won’t be too much longer until they can join in Princess Peach’s rescue. In a tweet from Nintendo Japan, the company announced that the popular auto-runner will be released in the Play Store in March, though surprisingly it won’t be the first Nintendo game available for Android.

On Feb. 2, Fire Emblem Heroes will launch on both iOS and Android with “fight battles customized for touch screens and on-the-go gameplay.”

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Attackers start wiping data from CouchDB and Hadoop databases

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:17:56 -0800

It was only a matter of time until ransomware groups that wiped data from thousands of MongoDB databases and Elasticsearch clusters started targeting other data storage technologies. Researchers are now observing similar destructive attacks hitting openly accessible Hadoop and CouchDB deployments.

Security researchers Victor Gevers and Niall Merrigan, who monitored the MongoDB and Elasticsearch attacks so far, have also started keeping track of the new Hadoop and CouchDB victims. The two have put together spreadsheets on Google Docs where they document the different attack signatures and messages left behind after data gets wiped from databases.

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Vizio adds Google Home support to its SmartCast TVs and home audio gear

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 07:04:00 -0800

In 2016, Vizio was big on building Google Cast support (the underpinnings of Chromecast) into its TVs, home theater displays, soundbars, and wireless speakers via the SmartCast line.

For 2017, Vizio's adding Google Home compatibility. Instead of casting media from a phone or tablet (like a sucker!) Vizio owners can now verbally order Google Home to play music from Spotify on the living room speakers, or start binge-watching Netflix’s The Crown in the den.

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Mac, Linux malware discovered targeting biomedical research

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:29:00 -0800

A Mac malware that’s been spying on biomedical research centers may have been circulating undetected for years, according to new research.

Antivirus vendor Malwarebytes uncovered the malicious code, after an IT administrator spotted unusual network traffic coming from an infected Mac.

The malware, which Apple calls Fruitfly, is designed to take screen captures, access the Mac’s webcam, and simulate mouse clicks and key presses, allowing for remote control by a hacker,  Malwarebytes said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The security firm said that neither it nor Apple have identified how the malware has been spreading. But whoever designed it relied on “ancient” coding functions, dating back before the Mac OS X operating system launch in 2001, said Malwarebytes researcher Thomas Reed in the blog post.

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LinkedIn's redesigned website isn't a cluttered mess anymore

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:27:00 -0800

LinkedIn’s desktop interface is getting a fresh coat of paint. The professional social network unveiled Thursday the largest overhaul to the desktop version of its website since the service launched.

The redesign is all about bringing changes from the company’s mobile app to its desktop experience, according to Chris Pruitt, LinkedIn’s director of engineering. Users will see a redesigned feed, tweaked profiles, new messaging capabilities and a revamped search box.

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hi6x2nwLXHc?rel=0" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen">

The company wants to unify the experience of using its desktop and mobile products, something that Pruett said LinkedIn’s most engaged users have been clamoring for. What’s more, the changes should make the product more useful and less cluttered.

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Switches coming out this year will drive open networking forward

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:00:06 -0800

Two moves by open networking vendors this week are likely to chip a little bit more off the monolith of proprietary, appliance-like equipment that still moves most packets around enterprise data centers.

On Thursday, network OS supplier Cumulus Networks introduced turnkey switches based on standard hardware from Edgecore Networks running Cumulus software. They’re designed to allow customers who are new to open networking to get started quickly and easily.

Earlier in the week, on the cutting edge of the movement, Barefoot Networks announced that Edgecore and another Taiwan-based manufacturer called WNC would start shipping switches that use the company’s fully programmable chips.

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Sniper Elite 4 preview: More sniping, less shooting

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:00:00 -0800

It’s easy for me to poke fun at the Sniper Elite series. It is, after all, predominantly known for over-the-top violence and the ability to shoot Nazis in their *ahem* testicles. And that’s still true as we head into the fourth Sniper Elite iteration—I saw plenty of exploding rib cages and skulls during my demo last week.

Sniper Elite 4 is a proper evolution though. While the series may never wholly shed its grindhouse B-movie feel, there’s an increasingly smart stealth game hidden underneath the fountains of blood and guts.

Technology is to thank. I’d actually forgotten, but Sniper Elite 3 was one of the last “cross-generation” games, better looking than its predecessor but still shackled by the limitations of the last console generation. And so while Sniper Elite 3 took some tiny steps forward, giving the player multiple paths to objectives and allowing for a bit more creativity, it still felt somewhat like a linear series of arenas.

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21% off Polaroid ZIP Mobile Photo Printer with ZINK Zero Ink Printing Technology - Deal Alert

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:49:00 -0800

Enjoy the power and fun of a Polaroid camera without the Polaroid camera. This little standalone photo printer connects to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, and is powered by a rechargeable lithium polymer battery, so it's designed to be portable, easy and fun to use. On a single charge the gadget will print 25 photos -- without ink. Instead, it uses heat to produce deep, vibrant colors that are completely smudge-proof, on 2x3 paper that is waterproof, tear-proof and backed with adhesive so you can peel-and-stick for added fun. Paper is easy to find on Amazon and comes in packs of 20, 30 or 50 (on sale here). A compact and protective carrying case is also available at what seems to be a reasonable price (found here).  The Polaroid ZIP mobile printer currently averages 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon from over 1,400 customers (read recent reviews). Its typical list price of $129.99 has been reduced by 21% to $102.14, a price you'll reveal only after adding the product to your cart. If you're looking for a fun and unusual summer gift idea for yourself or someone on your list, see the discounted Polaroid ZIP mobile printer now on Amazon.

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Facebook plans new data center in Denmark

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:15:27 -0800

Facebook has chosen Odense in Denmark as the site of its third data center outside the U.S.

Denmark's moderate climate will allow the company to use outdoor air and indirect evaporative cooling to keep temperatures in the data center down, and servers will be powered entirely with renewable energy, the company said Thursday.

Most of Denmark's renewable energy comes from wind power, a highly variable resource. On one day in 2015, it was able to satisfy the nation's entire electricity demand with wind power, and also become a net exporter of electricity. At other times, around a quarter of the country's electricity demand is met by wind power, according to the latest figures from Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency.

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Mini PC invasion: These radically tiny computers fit in the palm of your hand

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:14:00 -0800

The PC goes ultraportable
(image)

Image by Gordon Mah Ung

Some of today’s desktops can make even the sleekest of laptops seem downright bulky.

Computers have been shrinking for years, and the revolution has only accelerated in recent times. As chipmakers focus on creating processors that sip power without sacrificing performance, thermal concerns have largely been alleviated in modern CPUs. Because of that, today’s pint-sized PCs offer enough performance to play HD video and satisfy Office jockeys, the opposite of the janky, compromised experience of yesteryear’s microcomputers.

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Halo Wars 2 campaign preview: Polished, pretty, but not as exciting as Blitz mode

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:11:00 -0800

When last we saw Halo Wars 2, it was to take an all-too-brief look at its creative Blitz multiplayer mode—one part deck-building game, one part MOBA, and definitely different than what I’ve come to expect from the stagnant real-time strategy genre. It got me excited.

The campaign mission I played last week? Not so much—though to be clear it was only a single mission.

First, the good: It’s Halo. There’s a certain novelty, seeing the Halo universe from a perspective we’ve only seen once before. You’ve got miniature Warthogs circling around, chain guns firing at groups of enemy Grunts. A pair of Wraiths strafe in, balls of blue plasma arcing through the air. A Spartan moves in and leaps on the Wraith’s back, hijacking it and using it to blow up its former partner.

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How to change the 'Hey, Cortana' wake word in Windows 10

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 05:00:00 -0800

Voice-controlled gizmos are quickly taking over our digital lives, but an annoyance is coming with them: Why can’t I personalize their wake words? Who among smart-home fans isn’t tired of saying. “Hey, Google” to Google Home, for example?

There’s a third-party program that aims to solve this problem for Cortana on Windows 10. MyCortana by the Sourceforge users LazyGuyz lets you change the “Hey, Cortana” wake word on your PC to anything you want.

If you’re a Star Trek fan you might prefer a simple command like “computer” or “dammit, Jim.” A political junkie might like a Trumpism such as “hey, failing pile of garbage.” I tested these wake phrases with MyCortana and they all worked exactly as expected—even “cat” worked just fine. That said, I did get a few false positives from time to time, so be aware that words with common sound combinations may confuse the program.

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Dropbox Paper vs. Evernote: 5 productivity features compared

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 03:30:00 -0800

Dropbox and Evernote have frequently been pitted against each other over the years. It’s never really been a fair comparison. Dropbox, essentially just a big storage box for your files, could never compete with Evernote’s document-creation and organizational capabilities.

Now that Dropbox has entered the online document-creation game with Paper, though, it seems more appropriate to see how the two services stack up against each other in a few key productivity areas. There’s no “best” option here—each tool has strengths and weaknesses and once you get familiar with them, your needs will dictate which tool is right for you.

Text editing

Evernote is geared more toward note taking than creating complex documents, so its text features are understandably spare. There are no tools for line spacing, indentation, or headings. You still have a choice of fonts, though, along with emphasis options, bulleted and numbered lists, checklists, and alignment.

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Nvidia Shield and the surprising resurgence of Android TV

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800

The situation for Android TV looked grim 15 months ago. Google had just released a new version of its Chromecast streaming dongle, which relies on a phone, tablet, or laptop to control what’s playing on the TV. At the time, Mario Queiroz, Google’s vice president of product management, suggested that this mode of viewing was key to the future of television.

Meanwhile, Android TV, Google’s other operating system for televisions and set-top boxes, seemed lost. Google apps and features that had shipped on other platforms were no-shows on Android TV, and the company didn’t even bother announcing the retail launch of Xiaomi’s Mi Box, last year’s only new Android TV streaming box. While Android TV did make its way onto some smart TVs and non-U.S. cable boxes in 2016, the platform felt like an afterthought.

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CIA updates rules for collecting and retaining info on US people

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 23:38:39 -0800

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday updated rules relating to the collection, retention and dissemination of information of U.S. persons, including putting a limit of five years on holding certain sensitive data and introducing restrictions for querying the data.

The announcement by the spy agency comes a couple of days before a new administration under President-elect Donald Trump takes charge, and could address to an extent concerns expressed by civil rights groups about the collection and handling of information of U.S. persons in the course of overseas surveillance. Such information is collected by the CIA under Executive Order 12333.

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Microsoft halts Minecraft updates for Windows 10 phones, as W10M consumer apps slowly die

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:02:00 -0800

Microsoft has put another nail in the coffin of Windows 10 Mobile, confirming that it has stopped development of its hit game Minecraft for Windows phones.

On Wednesday, Windows Central reported that Microsoft had halted development of Minecraft: Pocket Edition for Windows phones. When asked for comment, a Microsoft representative referred PCWorld to a Minecraft support document that indicates the platform won’t receive future updates. 

The official FAQ states: “Is the 1.0 Ender Update coming to Minecraft: Pocket Edition on Windows Phone? Why not?” It goes on to answer: “The 1.0 Ender Update will not be available on Windows Phone 8.1 or Windows Phone 10. Every Minecraft platform has different needs and our priority is to focus on long-awaited features for as many players as possible.”

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Slack finally launches threaded replies

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 13:47:00 -0800

Slack, the popular work chat app, has launched one of the features that users have been clamoring for over its entire lifetime: threaded messages.

On Wednesday, the company began the process of rolling out the update to all of its users, which will allow them to keep conversations about a particular topic corralled into a single thread. The feature is designed to keep conversations on a particular topic out of the main flow of a chat channel, the company said in a blog post.

Starting a thread just requires users to hover over a message, click the “Start a Thread” button, and type their response. Replies will be grouped into a sidebar thread, and a small link will appear below the original message showing who has replied to a thread and how many replies it has garnered.

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New $29 Pine64 computer takes on Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 13:36:00 -0800

Raspberry Pi's new Compute Module 3 has serious competition coming its way from the maker of the Pine64 board computer.

The new SOPINE A64 64-bit computing module is a smaller version of the popular US$15 Pine64 computer.

It was announced the same week as the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, which is a smaller version of the popular namesake board, was released.

At $29, the SOPINE A64 roughly matches the price of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, which ranges from $25 to $30. The new SOPINE will ship in February, according to the website.

The SOPINE A64 can't operate as a standalone computer like the Pine64. It needs to be plugged in as a memory slot inside a computer.

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Google Maps beta now shows how hard it will be to park at your destination

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 13:02:00 -0800

If you’ve ever taken longer to find a parking spot than you did driving somewhere, Google Maps might be able to help—or at least prepare you for a headache. Thanks to a new feature in the latest beta, you’ll now be able to tell how hard it will be to park once you arrive at your destination.

The new feature is easy to miss. The next time you pull up driving directions, you’ll see a small circular P icon to the right of your route overview, next to which will show three levels of parking difficulty: Easy, Medium, and Limited. (To make it easier to see at a glance, easy and medium are colored blue while limited is red.) While the feature doesn’t update to show the actual parking situation when you arrive (at least not yet), you can get a slightly longer description when you expand your directions.

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AMD talks tough as it drums up support for 32-core Zen server chip

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 12:45:00 -0800

At CES, AMD launched its first Zen chips for PCs, called Ryzen. Next on deck is the 32-core server chip code-named Naples, which will ship in the coming months.

Naples doesn't have an official name yet, but the expectations are high. While Ryzen is set up for success in PCs, it's a different story for Naples, which has to take on Intel's juiced-up Xeon chips, which are used in most servers today.

AMD is trying to drum up excitement for Naples, which will be released in the first half of this year. It's promoting Naples using the same tactic as it did for Ryzen -- by talking about the performance benefits of the Zen CPU.

The Zen CPU core in Naples will provide the same performance benefits as in the Ryzen chips. AMD claims a 40 percent improvement in instructions per cycle, an important metric to measure CPU performance, compared to the company's previous Excavator architecture.

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Modern warfare: Death-dealing drones and ... illegal parking?

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 12:40:00 -0800

A cloud of 3D-printed drones big enough to bring down the latest U.S. stealth fighter, the F35, was just one of the combat scenarios evoked in a discussion of the future of warfare at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

Much of the discussion focused on the changes computers are bringing to the battlefield, including artificial intelligence and autonomous systems—but also the way the battlefield is coming to computing, with cyberwar, and social media psyops an ever more real prospect.

Former U.S. Navy fighter pilot Mary Cummings, now director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, delivered the first strike.

“The barrier to entry to drone technology is so low that everyone can have one, and if the Chinese go out and print a million copies of a drone, a very small drone, and put those up against an F35 and they go into the engine, you basically obviate what is a very expensive platform,” she said.

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Failure to patch known ImageMagick flaw for months costs Facebook $40k

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 12:06:27 -0800

It's not common for a security-conscious internet company to leave a well-known vulnerability unpatched for months, but it happens. Facebook paid a US$40,000 reward to a researcher after he warned the company that its servers were vulnerable to an exploit called ImageTragick.

ImageTragick is the name given by the security community to a critical vulnerability that was found in the ImageMagick image processing tool back in May.

ImageMagick is a command-line tool that can resize, convert and optimize images in many formats. Web server libraries like PHP’s imagick, Ruby’s rmagick and paperclip, and Node’s imagemagick, used by millions of websites, are based on it.

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