If you are using a Sony Xperia device running either Android 4.4.2 or 4.4.4 it’s advised (by me) that you install a custom ROM on your device. Several reports have appeared online that the stock firmware on these devices contains Baidu spyware that is discreetly sending data back to servers in China, you do not need to have installed any software on your phone as it’s bundled into the firmware.
With this spyware, a user named ‘Elbird’, on the Sony forums, claims that the Chinese Government can:
– Read status and identity of your device
– Make pictures and videos without your knowledge
– Get your exact location
– Read the contents of your USB memory
– Read or edit accounts
– Change security settings
– Completely manage your network access
– Couple with bluetooth devices
– Know what apps you’re using
– Prevent your device from entering sleep mode
– Change audio settings
– Change system settings
You can check to see if you have the spyware by using a file manager and checking for a folder called ‘Baidu’, some reports on Reddit also claim that their none Sony devices also have the folder so it’s worth making sure you’re not infected by checking your files. Some people have offered more complicated solutions to the problem by just blocking a service running on the device that creates the folder, but with this method it’s not safe to assume that your device will remain virus free so doing a clean ROM install is best.
Sony says that the problem will be fixed in Lollipop however Sony devices won’t get that release for a few months yet, the best course of action if you have an infected device is to research CyanogenMod to check if your device is supported, if it’s not then check the XDA forums for a ROM that does work on your phone.
LibreOffice is enjoying some serious adoption. CloudOn, a US-based company has launched a document editor for Apple’s iPad which is based of free and open source LibreOffice. The company says in a press statement that the app offers a, “…new experience for creating and editing mobile documents with a gesture-first doc editor that removes all the clutter, overload and lag of yesterday’s tools. Now people can intuitively create and collaborate on thoughts, ideas and information in ways that fits with the way they work.”
“CloudOn was the first company to bring Microsoft Office to mobile devices, delivering mobile productivity to millions of people,” said Milind Gadekar, CEO and co-founder of CloudOn. “We are excited to transform this space once again with the launch of our new doc editor. Users will benefit from the intuitive, designed-for-mobile experience, without loosing the functionality of Word documents.”
The key features of the app include:
– Gesture-first design: Made for ease and speed. Just tap, type, pinch and swipe to create, edit, style and more.
– Compatible: Works with Microsoft Word, so you can read, edit and share without worrying about formatting or compatibility.
– Open: Works with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, so you can access all your existing files without moving anything.
– Offline ready: Work on docs from anywhere, even on a plane.
The app doesn’t, unfortunately, fully support the ISO approved ODF format. By fully I mean it can open and edit .odt files, but can’t create new files in odt.
The Document says in a press statement:
CloudOn’s new iPad app is powered by LibreOffice, the best free office suite ever. CloudOn has leveraged LibreOffice advanced features for this new gesture-first mobile editor, and has contributed back the extensive DOCX interoperability improvements, which have been integrated in LibreOffice 4.2 and LibreOffice 4.3.
CloudOn’s new iPad app also supports the LibreOffice native Open Document Format (ODF), the only true open document standard. Because of this unique feature, it has better interoperability performances than any other mobile document editor.
Another area is integration with cloud services. Even if you have Dropbox or Google Drive installed on your iPad you can’t give access to the app by clicking on the icon, you will need to give your account details. If you want to work on Google Docs, the app will create a docx version of the document so you won’t be able to work on the same copy between Google Docs app and CloudOn.
The app, from the first hand experience, looks quite neat on the iPad. You can download and try it out now.
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China have announced a new time frame in which they will move to a new operating system. It will consist of 15% of government computers being switched to Linux per year. The report by Ni Guangnan outlining the transition won government approval and by 2020 the Chinese Government’s transition to Linux should be complete.
Earlier this year the Chinese Government decided that they would ban the use of Windows 8 and upwards on Government computers due to security concerns about the operating system, it was assumed that China would seek to move to a Linux distribution for government computers, this has been confirmed and they plan to make the complete switch by 2020.
An alternative OS has not yet been finalised although it is likely to be a home-grown Linux distribution a likely choice might be Ubuntu Kylin as the government in China have been promoting the distribution for those looking to move away from XP.
The timetable to replace the Microsoft product also extends to servers, chips and software. The China Banking Regulatory Commission has already informed banks to swap to domestic operating systems too.
Microsoft is not in a good position in China, they are currently being investigated for monopolistic behaviour similar to what happened in Europe which led to the browser ballot box being distributed in the OS a few years ago.
The World Web Consortium, the body for body which decides on web standards has elevated the HTML5 specification to ‘recommendation’ status which is the highest endorsement level and is therefore standardised.
Since around 2010 web browsers have been implementing support for HTML5 features, now most of the browsers support most HTML5 features and it comes just in time for W3C recommendation for the technology. To check your browsers HTML5 support go to HTML5Test, which will give you the run down of all the supported features in your browser, you can also compare your browser to multiple versions of a wide range of browsers across different devices.
End users will now be able to expect even more dynamic web pages that resize themselves to fit to your device’s screen size, contain videos that require no plugins to view and the same for audio.
In addition HTML5 will see much more better games get developed for the web, Mozilla using various technologies have shown off desktop-like games in terms of graphics, if this were to become mainstream we may see a shift from people using traditional desktop and laptop to devices like Chromebooks, although post-Snowden privacy concerns make this a more distant reality than it was before. HTML5 also brings with it native support for scalable vector graphics (SVG) and math (MathML), anotations important for East Asian typography and features to enable accessibility of rich applications.
An official confirmation from Aspyr Media today confirms Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth to be slated for a Linux and Mac release later this holiday season. The latest entrant into the acclaimed series of 4X Turn based strategy, will be available on both the Mac and Linux versions of Steam as well as on the Mac App Store.
Aspyr Media, in collaboration with 2K and Firaxis will be bringing the new game to Linux. They were also the company for porting the previous versions of Civilization to Linux, with the latest Civilization V ported over to Linux earlier this year. As always, the Linux port will be a native port and will retain all the features of the game that is available on Windows. Additionally, the game will also support cross-multiplayer with the other platforms through Steam, so that you can enjoy those grand multiplayer sessions that only a Sid Meier’s game can provide.
The Windows version of the game is being launched this Friday. Users are already able to preload the game ahead of the launch. Although the Linux version is being a bit delayed, I personally think that rather than just make a superficial port like the Witcher 2, taking a bit of a time and making a native port that runs better is worth the wait. At least the company confirmed that there will be one.
The Linux and Mac versions are up for Pre-Order on Asper Media’s sister site GameAgent.com. The pre-order from the site entitles users to a redeemable Steam key when the game launches on the platforms later this year. Users who order the game from this site will also get access to the Exoplanets Map Pack as a free bonus.
A series of Dev Diaries will be put up on GameAgent’s blog, which we will keep an eye out for interesting bits. So stayed tuned for more on the game here.
Source: Aspyr Media Press News
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Version 4.0 of the Tor browser has been released and it brings some very significant changes with it. Including being able to prevent POODLE attacks by disabling SSLv3, it’s updated on the latest Firefox ESR and also includes a built in updater, as opposed to telling you there was an update and then sending you off to the Tor Project website.
Arguably the most important feature in this release of Tor Browser is the inclusion of the meek pluggable transport. Although this feature needs some speed improvements and is being addressed, it now gives users living in restrictive nation to connect to Tor more easily. Although everyone ought to do a portion of their general browsing using Tor to increase anonymity of other users, the main purpose of the browser is to help those who really need to stay anonymous, whether that be a dissident in China or Ed Snowden leaking NSA documents.
By including the hard-to-block meek transports we should see the Chinese user metrics stay at steady rates in future rather than randomly dropping off when the Chinese government discovers a bunch of new bridge IPs that haven’t been publicly listed like other nodes.
If like me however you live in a western country where internet control is fairly light (they still block content distribution sites like The Pirate Bay), then the news about meek pluggable transports may not seem so important, however this release won’t disappoint as the Browser is now based on Firefox 31 ESR which means we get the new Australis theme which in my opinion is better.
The last major feature worth mentioning is the in-built upgrader, this can be accessed through Menu > Help > About Tor Browser. The Tor Project people say that if you are the sort who likes to manually check whether your GPG keys match with the sites’ then you should continue to download the browser from the website like normal as they have to tweak the updater to work correctly with certificates to prove you’re downloading from the legitimate source, although, unless you are doing the work of James Bond or about to do something illegal and you think you’re on the Cast Iron list then it’s probably overkill to manually check the GPG keys, I did it before and they matched.
For the complete list (it’s a big list of small changes) then head over to the official announcement from the Tor project.
If you have a Tails USB lying on your desk somewhere it’s time to plug it in, boot to it, and upgrade it (with the built in updater of course). Yes, the team behind Tails have released version 1.2 of their incognito liveUSB distribution.
Every six weeks around the time of a new Firefox update (Tor Project release updates around now too) the team of anonymous developers behind the Tails project update their distro. With this new release they have ripped out the Iceweasel browser and replaced it with Tor Browser (based on version 4.0 which was just released).
Other new updates with the release is the inclusion of the AppArmor Linux Security Module which ‘adds Mandatory Access Control for the several critical applications in Tails, including Tor, Vidalia, Pidgin, Evince and Totem.’ Also included is a mechanism to isolate I2P traffic from the Tor Browsers by using a dedicated browser for I2P browser.
If in the past, you have tried Tails and found something not to work right, it may time to give it another spin, with this release they include the Linux kernel version 3.16.5-1 which may enable you to user newer hardware from the last time you tried the distribution.
For the complete changes in this release check the announcement.
Journalists who report from the White House have begun using Google Groups to submit content to, essentially using it to pool content so that other journos can take what they want and use it in their reports.
The decision to use Google Groups comes after White House journalists felt that the Obama administration too heavily censored the official White House pool, for instance you have to be included on a list which is maintained by the White House to receive the e-mails with the content and then the White House effectively screens out information from the pool which it decides it doesn’t like.
The group consists of about 90 journalists who work in print media, although growing, this number pales in comparison to the estimated 8,000 people and entities that receive the pool reports maintained by the White House.
The pool that has been set up on Google Groups is intended for use by print and online recipients, TV and radio reporters already have such a pool in place that is independant of the White House. The new pool’s member list could significantly increase however as there are a growing number of online news outlets.
The new pooling mechanism will be opened to more journalists after an evaluation period has concluded, it will be interesting to see whether the new system is able to subvert censorship attempts by the current and succeeding administrations.
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Apple today announced a slew of new products which includes an even more appealing, and affordable Mac Mini, astonishing 5k resolution iMac, new iPads and much more.
The show sealers are clearly iMac and Mac Mini. Apple is clearly entering the huge gap created by Microsoft by offering a really affordable Mac PC. Mac Mini is stepping stone for any new Mac OSX user. Once you are in, you are going to stay inside Apple’s ecosystem.
Apple gave Mac Mini the much needed upgrade (there had been no upgrade since two years) – 1.GHz dual core Core i5 processor with 4GB RAM and Intel HD Graphics 5000 GPU for the base model and 2.8 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB memory, 1TB Fusion Drive and Intel Iris Graphics for high end model. You can get the base model for as low as $499 and high-end for $999.
The real excitement was around iMac which gets a 5K (4K is such a fad) , 27 inch display for mere $2,499. The iMac has a stunning resolution of 5120 by 2880, or 14.7 million pixels. iMac Retina 5K (Apple knows how to coin new terms), comes with 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz), 8GB (two 4GB) memory, 1TB Fusion Drive AMD Radeon R9 M290X with 2GB video memory.
Apple also upgraded the iPad Mini family and announced thinner and faster iPad Mini 3 and iPad Air 2. Though considering the price and performance, a bit cheaper iPad Mini 2 makes more sense for buyers.
Last but not the least, Apple made available Mac OS Yosemite which you can download from the App Store (for free) as you read this article.
So, are you going to get Mac Mini or iMac?
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It seems to be the beginning of the end of the cable television in the US. Yesterday entertainment giant HBO announced they will start offering Internet subscription without requiring any cable subscription.
Today CBS, yet another leading TV network, announced their move to the Internet. The TV network launched a new video on demand and live streaming service for the CBS Television Network, called CBS All Access. The service is available immediately via a web browser, iOS or Android apps.
Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation says. “This new subscription service will deliver the most of CBS to our biggest fans while being additive to the overall ecosystem. Across the board, we continue to capitalize on technological advances that help consumers engage with our world-class programming, and we look forward to serving our viewers in this new and exciting way.”
The pricing of HBO is still unknown, but CBS has made it quite competitive. CBS All Access will be available for mere $5.99 per month, which is lower than Netflix.
The arrival of CBS and HBO to the internet without a ‘cord’ is a major shift for the US entertainment industry, but does it being good news for the Internet?
The most interesting aspect this ‘shift’ is net neutrality. With more TV networks moving to the web, how will it affect the net neutrality? Will they sign up deals with ISPs, similar to Netflix, and weaken net neutrality to dismiss competitors or will they become an ally and lobby for the net neutrality?
HBO is certainly not in favor of net neutrality. When asked by the investors, Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of HBO’s parent, Time Warner hinted at supporting the fast lane proposed by FCC:
So they’re going to need—there’s going to need to be an evolution of financial support to pay for—to continue to maintain the ability of the broadband infrastructure to do digital delivered programming. If you—that’s really the truth underneath the various positions that people said about something called net neutrality. This is simply a question of if we’re going to move more use into that system and we’re going to have more Americans using that, it has to be supported economically in some fashion.
Bewkes is all for ‘paying’ ISPs for getting on the fast lane, which clearly means an end of net neutrality. His statement is not at all surprising considering the fact that Time Warner _is_ an ISP!
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Apple has made an unusual blunder ahead of its Thursday press event; the company has accidentally revealed both of its new iPads: the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. An official user guide for iOS 8 in the iTunes Store has apparently had its screenshots updated ahead of schedule; both new iPads are pictured, and the images reveal each will have a Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
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POODLE aka Padding Oracle on Downgraded Legacy Encryption is a major flaw that was found in SSL 3 by three Google security researchers. Bodo Moller, Thai Duong and Krzysztof Kotowicz published a paper about the flaw which they found.
Essentially, POODLE allows an attacker to hijack the cookies used to identify you to a service to gain access to your account without knowing your password.
Google’s security team have recommended that system administrators just turn off SSL 3 support, the protocol have been around since the 1980’s and has been superseded by TLS so turning support off for SSL 3 seems overdue.
For most people this security flaw is a non-issue. Just make sure you are running the latest software your OS has to offer especially if you plan on using an open Wi-Fi (if you like open wi-fi and want to expand internet access check out the open wireless movement).
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Jonathan Riddell of Kubuntu explains why Kubuntu users may find Baloo slowing down their systems:
I was pointed to a problem where Baloo was causing a user’s system to run slow. Baloo is the new indexer from KDE and will store all your files in a way you can easily search for them and was a faster replacement for Nepomuk. Baloo has been written to be as lightweight as these things can be using IONice, a feature of Linux which allows processes to say “this isn’t very important let everyone else go first”. Ubuntu changed the default Linux scheduler from CFQ to Deadline which doesn’t support IONice.
Silviu Stahie of Softpedia writes:
One of the KDE maintainers for Slackware has recently posted a message on a blog, asking the KDE developers to “get their act” together. He is now refusing to jump aboard the KDE Plasma 5 train and he says that he will not push the latest updates until something is done about it.
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News that Dropbox credentials had been obtained and leaked by an unknown attacker spread on Reddit yesterday, just days after Edward Snowden advised people to ditch Dropbox, Google and Facebook. Dropbox quickly reacted to the the allegations that it had lost the data and said that 3rd parties were responsible for losing the users data, unrelated to Dropbox.
The usernames and password of hundreds of accounts are currently viewable on PasteBin however Dropbox have disabled the passwords on these accounts so that the affected users can request their passwords be reset through email.
Some of the users on Reddit stated that they could still login to some of the accounts listed despite Dropbox saying that it disabled the passwords a few months ago when they detected suspicious behaviour. It’s probably best to change your password whether you were affected or not at this point as the leakers could be sitting on more credentials that they’ve decided not to leak.
Edward Snowden, a few days ago, said that users of Facebook, Google and Dropbox should stop using these services as they were the biggest abusers online. I advise SpiderOak as an alternative to Dropbox, they backup data to encrypted storage and do not keep passwords like Dropbox so while this is good for privacy, as only those with the password can access the account, it also means that SpiderOak can’t reset your password if you forget it.
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Today Firefox 33 has been released, among it’s main features is OpenH264, an open source, Cisco provided solution for viewing H.264 content over webRTC. OpenH264 is a free H.264 codec plugin that Firefox downloads directly from Cisco. Cisco published the code to Github making it open source. Mozilla and Cisco have set up a process where the binary is verified to be built from the source on Github so that users trust the integrity of the binary that is shipped with the browser.
Mozilla have also addressed a major gripe I had with the browser, they have made searching from the URL bar much more bearable. When searching for single word items or using symbols such as “.” or “/” the browser would get a bit confused and would start trying assume you were typing a URL and throw up an error. This blog post goes into the specifics of the implementation if you’re interested.
Lastly, Windows users (Linux to follow soon) should see improved responsiveness thanks to “OFTM” or Off Main Thread Compositing. I personally cannot go into the details of the implementation as it’s beyond my scope but from the wiki on the topic users should see: reduced main thread contention, asynchronous scrolling, tearing prevention, asynchronous video and asynchronous CSS animation.
Some other improvements in this release is a new content security policy backend, improved session restoration and further HTML5 support. The mobile version of the browser now has support for sending videos to Chromecast and Roku devices, option to clear data when quitting and enhanced tab management.
The entire changelog can be seen here.
A Steam Forum member who goes by the handle, fernj, posted on Steam Community asking for the Linux port of the game – Creative Assembly for Alien: Isolation. Softpedia reports:
Now that Steam for Linux has been released, more and more users are looking for games that support this platform. More than 700 titles are now working on Steam for Linux and a number of studios and big publishers are starting to see that there are a lot of Linux users.
Back in 2012 with the release of Ubuntu 12.10 the EFF, Richard Stallman and countless other privacy advocates led vocal campaigns against Canonical for including Amazon results in the dash, the issue was that Amazon would know everything you were typing into the dash. Now however Microsoft are targeting early users of their Windows 10 Operating System in a much more egregious way.
Microsoft’s new ‘Preview Privacy Statement’ http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-privacy-statement suggests that they plan on collecting far more data of it’s users habits that Canonical ever did. Under the ‘Data We Collect’ heading, Microsoft confirm that they collect: your name, email address, preferences and interests; browsing, search and file history; phone call and SMS data; device configuration and sensor data; and application usage. They commit these acts when you use things like the voice input features where they say they will collect your voice information and ‘use it for purposes such as improving speech processing’.
It’s not only your voice they collect however, they also store the things you type for ‘improving autocomplete and spellcheck features.’ In addition to this they can see which programs you install and the details of the device you are using. Lastly they can see which files you open, then proceed to collect information about the file, the application to open the file, how long the file takes to open.
For the more liberal minded regarding privacy who are reading, thinking this is just for the purposes of improving the product then you should also know that Microsoft state they will share this data with third parties and also that they will use your data to send your advertisements about their new products and updates. The third parties that Microsoft mention also include law enforcement. They say “we may access, disclose and preserve information about you when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to: 1. comply with applicable law or respond to a valid legal process from competent authorities, including from law enforcement or other government agencies; 2. protect our customers, for example to prevent spam or attempts to defraud Microsoft’s customers, or to help prevent the loss of life or serious injury of anyone; 3. operate and maintain the security of out products and services, including to prevent or stop and attack on our computer systems or networks; or 4. protect the rights or property of Microsoft, including enforcing the terms governing the use of the services – however, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our products or services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves, but we may refer the matter to law enforcement,”
I’ll conclude as I started, talking about Ubuntu privacy situation. From versions 14.10 onward I believe that they have said that they are removing Amazon from the dash searches, it shows that they listen, eventually.
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Beginning of an era!
Netflix now runs on Linux without any tweaks or work-around what so ever. I just noticed it when I installed a new Ubuntu system (14.10), with Chrome Beta 39.x Chrome 38 stable and out of curiosity opened Netflix. It worked flawlessly. No agent switcher required anymore. Which means Netflix engineers have implemented the changes that Paul Adolph from Netflix proposed to Ubuntu developers:
Netflix will play with Chrome stable in 14.02 if NSS version 3.16.2 or greater is installed. If this version is generally installed across 14.02, Netflix would be able to make a change so users would no longer have to hack their User-Agent to play.
Ubuntu developers responded swiftly and within a few dates pushes the updates. The ball was in Netflix’ court and it seems the tweaks have been made at Netflix’ end.
How to get Netflix on Ubuntu or any other Linux distribution? Just updates nss package so that it is higher than 3.16 and get beta version of Google Chrome browser. Then log into Netflix and from playback settings choose HTML5 playbak.
I tested it on openSUSE (rolling release with nss updated), Kubuntu 14.04 and Arch Linux; it’s working.
This is huge development for Linux as Netflix was one of the missing links. Soon Linux users may also be able to ‘stream’ Photoshop through Google Chrome.
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Google has some great services such as Photos, Hangout but they are suffering under Google + umbrella. After Vic Gundotra’s departure Google has started to set these applications free from Google+.
Google Talk used to be a stand alone app which didn’t need one to be on G+, it was killed as it became Hangout. What could have been a Skype killer became a taxi for G+.
Google just announced Hangouts as a standalone Chrome app. “Today, we’re introducing the Hangouts Chrome App for Chrome OS and Windows — a simpler, faster way to use Hangouts on your computer alongside whatever else you’re doing,” writes David Levin, Software Engineer at Google.
Though Google didn’t bother to mention Linux, if you are running Chrome browser you can easily install the app from the Chrome Store. The app will be added to the Chrome Apps and you can easily access it from your Linux desktop.Google Hangouts app on openSUSE Gnome Keep it where ever you want.
Chromebook users will be able to access it from the Application Menu.
Once installed the Hangouts icon floats on the right corner of the screen and you can start talking without having to open the browser. The icon can be placed at the desire position – just grab the app and place it where ever you want.
The beauty of this app is that even the Chromebook users won’t have to open the browser to start a chat with friends and families, something that was quite annoying if you want to switch tabs or use another application while chatting. Now it’s less Google+, less Chrome. You can also make phone calls using the app, so now I would say its a true Skype competitor.
Install the app from the Chrome Web Store and let me know what you think about the standalone Hangouts app!
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