Latest Technology News

'Subway Reads' gives NYC straphangers free e-book shorts and excerpts

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Have you ever been on an NYC subway? If not, let me tell you -- it is often horrible. Air conditioning can be broken, leading to high temperatures. Even worse, some people bring their food below ground, resulting in a stinky train car -- yuck! Don't even get me started on the performers -- people will sing or do acrobatics and then demand money. Heck, just last week a woman released live crickets on the subway!

Luckily, the NYC subway experience is getting better thanks to one thing -- Wi-Fi. Today, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York announces a new promotion, called "Subway Reads", which leverages that connectivity. This initiative will help straphangers get some relief from the other nonsense by enabling them to bury themselves in a free Penguin Random House e-book short or excerpt.

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Now you can tell Alexa to find your phone

Amazon Echo

Lost your phone? We probably all have at one time or another and it borders between annoying and scary depending where you've been. If you didn't leave home then it's there somewhere. If you did then it can be a full panic.

Now Amazon would like help via its Echo device. You're likely familiar with that by now, thanks to a TV ad campaign a while back, but it continues to do different things thanks to constant updates.

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Restrict and limit Windows user accounts with FrontFace Lockdown Tool

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If you're setting up a PC for others to use then you’ll often want to limit their actions, prevent them running other applications or tweaking system settings.

Windows has many security and user settings that can help, but they're scattered across many applets and may be hard to find.

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John Ellenby dies at 75

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I wouldn’t normally be writing a column early on a Saturday but I just read that John Ellenby died and I think that’s really worth mentioning because Ellenby changed all our lives and especially mine.

If you don’t recognize his name, John Ellenby was a British computer engineer who came to Xerox PARC in the 1970s to manufacture the Xerox Alto, the first graphical workstation. He left Xerox in the late 1980s to found Grid Systems, makers of the Compass -- the first full-service laptop computer. In the 1990s he founded Agilis, which made arguably the first handheld mobile phone that wasn’t the size of a brick. Finally he set up a company in both New Zealand and San Francisco to do geographical mapping data before most of us even knew we needed it. The man pioneered four technology industry segments, putting him on the same level as Steve Jobs.

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Facebook embraces algorithms and eschews human headlines in trending topics

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Facebook's Trending Topics feature has faced a good deal of criticism in recent months, including claims that it showed a liberal bias. A little while back the company announced that it was to change how the feature works, and now there is a further change which sees human headline writers being defenestrated, and algorithms ushered in the front door.

What this means is that the Trending Topics list will no longer feature an explanation or description next to it, only the topic heading or hashtag will be displayed. Facebook will no doubt hope that this will help to eliminate future complaints of human intervention into the topics that are pushed on the social network.

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Opera sync servers hacked, usernames and passwords at risk

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Opera Software is advising all users of the sync feature of its Opera browser to change their passwords following a security breach. Details are a little scant at the moment, but the company says that servers were breached earlier in the week and user data may have been compromised.

Opera Sync is used to synchronize user data between different computers but it is apparently used by under "0.5% of the total Opera user base". However, with a user base of 350 million this means that upwards of 1.7 million people could be affected.

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Microsoft combats hate speech based on gender, disability, religion, age, and more

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The internet and web together are two of mankind's greatest inventions. Not only do they put an infinite amount of information at people's fingertips, but they connect the globe too. We may take it for granted, but being able to video chat with someone on the other side of the planet, for example, is downright amazing.

While the internet has the ability to bring out the best in humanity, it also shines a light on some of its worst, sadly. In other words, there is a lot of hate on the web, and it can be downright ugly -- just look at YouTube comments! Heck, some presidential campaigns are even based on hate, but I digress. Today, Microsoft announces that it is increasing its efforts to combat hate speech that is hosted on its own services.

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Ubuntu Linux 16.10 (Yakkety Yak) Beta 1 now available for download (don't talk back)

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Linux celebrated a 25th birthday yesterday -- a spectacular open source milestone. For some folks, rather than eat cake, they reflected on how the kernel impacted their lives. For many, Ubuntu would be a big part of the picture -- the desktop OS is wildly popular in the Linux community.

Today, the first beta of Ubuntu Linux 16.10 sees release. Once again, a silly animal name is assigned, this time being the letter "Y" for the horned mammal, "Yakkety Yak". This is obviously a play on the classic song "Yakety Yak" by The Coasters. Please be sure not to "talk back" while testing this beta operating system!

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DarkAudacity gives Audacity’s classic audio editor a UI update

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DarkAudacity, a mildly redesigned branch of the classic open-source audio editor Audacity, has been released for Windows.

The package has no big technical changes or enhancements, and instead focuses on revamping the interface to simplify operations and give it a more modern look.

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Information Commissioner to investigate data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook

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WhatsApp's plans to share user data with Facebook are to be investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in the UK. The change in privacy policy goes against a previous public commitment not to share data in this way.

The ICO has the power to regulate how companies make use of data belonging to people located in the UK, even if the companies themselves are located elsewhere. A key concern is whether there will be compliance with data protection laws.

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NBC comes to Sling TV, sort of

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Sling TV has received a lot of publicity lately. Getting your television fix over the internet is no longer a new thing thanks to services like YouTube and Hulu, but Sling takes things to another level, delivering live TV that mimics cable and satellite and features channels like CNN and ESPN to name just two.

Now NBC is finally arriving, even though you could already get MSNBC and NBC Sports. However, there's a bit of catch with this addition.

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GoDaddy users hit by clever phishing scam

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Phishing attacks continue to get cleverer as the people behind them refine their social engineering techniques. The latest attack uncovered by Comodo Labs targets users of the popular GoDaddy web hosting service.

The scam sends out email from what appears to be support@godaddy.com. Within the body of the phishing email, the user is notified that their email account storage has been maxed out and that incoming emails are being rejected.

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OpenStreetView is a crowd-sourced Google Street View

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OpenStreetMap has launched OpenStreetView, an open-source alternative to Google Street View.

The service offers free Android and iOS apps to record images while you’re driving. Upload the results to the OpenStreetView servers and they’ll be shared with the world.

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Serious security vulnerability that left iPhones open to hackers is patched in iOS 9.3.5

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Security researchers have unearthed three serious security flaws in iOS that made it possible to install spyware and other malware on iPhones. Software exploiting the vulnerabilities (described as "one of the most sophisticated pieces of cyberespionage software we've ever seen") can be installed with a single click, opening up victims' devices to full-scale surveillance.

The security holes have already been abused by NSO Group -- linked with selling hacking and surveillance software to governments -- but Apple has now issued a fix in the form of iOS 9.3.5. The update fixed two kernel vulnerabilities and one in WebKit, all discovered by Citizen Lab and Lookout.

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Best Windows apps this week

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One-hundred and ninety-five in a series. Welcome to this week's overview of the best apps, games and extensions released for Windows 8.x and Windows 10 in the past seven days.

Plenty of updates were released this week, but many companies -- including Microsoft -- publish release notes only sporadically if at all.

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